Staying In “Touch” with Long-Distance Loved Ones

Connecting with long-distance loved ones may soon get easier.

Want to reach out and touch your loved one when all you have is FaceTime or Skype? Thanks to work being done at the Simon Fraser University Lab, long-distance loved ones can now hold hands and mime other intimate gestures. How are they staying in "touch"? A high-tech pair of interconnected gloves.

The “Flex-N-Feel” gloves incorporate tactile sensors that allow the wearers to feel movements, according to When fingers are flexed in one glove, the actions are transmitted to the remote partner, who is wearing the other glove, and the sensors allow them to “feel” the movements, explained Carman Neustaedter, an associate professor at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT). The sensors, which are placed strategically on the palm side of the fingers to facilitate touch, are attached to a microcontroller.

Neustaedter explains that glove wearers can make intimate gestures like touching someone’s face or hugging simply by bending or flexing a finger to mimic touch. The research team designed the gloves as part of its work on shared experiences. Other projects the team are focusing on include virtual reality conference systems and next-generation telepresence robots.

It’s all about using technology to close the gap in long-distance relationships, says Neustaedter: “Distance doesn’t mean missing out on having a physical presence and sharing space. If people can’t physically be together, we’re hoping to create the next best technological solutions.”