Halfway October 2013, I started as a PhD Student in the Human Media Interaction group at the University of Twente in Enschede. The PhD project – which is on the topic of Mediated Social Touch – is a collaboration between the HMI group and the department of Perceptual and Cognitive Systems of TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) in Soesterberg. To strengthen this collaboration, I work partly at HMI (under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dirk Heylen) and partly at TNO (under supervision of Dr. Jan van Erp).
As said, my PhD project is on Mediated Social Touch, or in other words: Touching – or being touched by – another person by means of technology. The sense of touch plays a very prominent role in our daily lives; we shake hands when we meet someone, a mother hugs her crying son to comfort him, and your grandmother may squeeze your cheek when you visit her. With these kinds of social touches we are able to convey our emotions, but also to change the other person’s feelings, thoughts, and/or behavior. Nowadays, communication between people often takes place in a mediated setting, but strangely enough, this communication is limited to speech and vision. No touch is involved. My PhD-project evolves around the question whether and how social touch effects can be achieved when people are communicating over a distance: What kinds of technologies can and should be used to simulate components of a human touch, which role do contextual factors play, and how can technology be applied to enhance and extend a social touch? A second key element of my PhD traject will be an investigation of whether a touch induced by a social agent (virtual or embodied) can induce similar effects as a real human touch.
Prior to my current position, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design at Eindhoven, University of Technology. At the same university, I obtained my Master’s degree in Human Technology Interaction (with great appreciation). My Master’s thesis was on “The effects of Multimodal Feedback in Bimanual Interaction with Active Tangible Interfaces”; in collaboration with TNO, Soesterberg. Although my main focus is on the social effects of touch, I’m of course still highly interested in everything else related to Tangible User Interfaces. With this background I should be well-equipped to gain insights in my research, both by the development of prototypes as well as by conducting a vast range of experiments. Hopefully, a substantial part of my research will be carried out in different collaborations with colleagues, external parties, and students. If you have interesting ideas or questions, please feel free to contact me.