Much has happened in the field of digitally mediated distance communication in recent years – online video meetings and video calls have become an integral part of most people’s lives, even beyond the pandemic. However, current solutions are often very pragmatically oriented, offering only a limited range of communication channels, mainly speech and facial expressions. As a result, they are well suited for work-related contexts, but rather less so for enabling communication over distance in the private domain, which creates connection and closeness and can also be emotionally fulfilling.
Together with our partners from the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Institute for Manufacturing Automation and Production Systems FAPS at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and C&S Computer und Software GmbH, we will be developing a new type of communication medium (the so-called ToCaros) in a user-centred process over the next three years. With the help of intelligent textiles and dielectric elastomer actuators, these ToCaros will primarily enable non-verbal communication over distance, such as the transmission of haptic stimuli or light signals. In addition to coordinating the research network, HFC is responsible for the engineering psychology-related aspects of the development process, ELSI reflections and the planning and implementation of user studies.