Touch nature, virtually

Via slashdot

Wired News reports that researchers have developed a computer system to allow physical interaction over the Internet. The system enables touching and feeling [tele-haptic sensing] of animals or other humans in real time, but it’s first being tried out on chickens. Researchers call it the “first human-poultry interaction system”, although they don’t explain why the chickens (actually roosters).

The Touchy Internet was built by researchers at the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore (NUS) (with teams in other places such as Austria). Click on it. These guys have the coolest research website I’ve ever seen. Check out their video section, especially the ones on Human Pacman.

The immediate use, which comes to mind, is porn. After all, porn represents the number one use of the Internet. The Wired article mentions the possibility for rescue workers to remotely communicate with dogs as they search in dangerous or remote places. I wonder if this technology could be used as a component of nature interpretation, either in a virtual interpretive center or as a way for disabled people to interact with nature. Or it could be used to advance protection of distance habitats. For example, if we could touch them, would it help us better empathize with baby seals in northern Canada and therefore more vigourously protest the seal hunt? If we could pet dolphins, would we engage in protecting sea mammals from fishing? We could think of any number of environments that might benefit from tele-haptics.

2 Responses to “Touch nature, virtually”

  1. Liam says:

    The suggested uses they mention in the article are bizarre to say the least: caressing pets, touching zoo animals, and interactive dance lessons.

    It seems as though most of the interesting uses are a ways in the distance, 10 years before texture. Looks like we might have to confine ourselves to irritating animals by poking them.