Feel-Good Requirements: Neurophysiological and Psychological Design Criteria of Affective Touch for (Assistive) Robots

Mehmet Ege Cansev, Daniel Nordheimer, Elsa Andrea Kirchner, Philipp Beckerle

In: Tom Ziemke (editor). Frontiers in Neurorobotics 15 Frontiers 7/2021.


Previous research has shown the value of the sense of embodiment, i.e., being able to integrate objects into one’s bodily self-representation, and its connection to (assistive) robotics. Especially, tactile interfaces seem essential to integrate assistive robots into one’s body model. Beyond functional feedback, such as tactile force sensing, the human sense of touch comprises specialized nerves for affective signals, which transmit positive sensations during slow and low-force tactile stimulations. Since these signals are extremely relevant for body experience as well as social and emotional contacts but scarcely considered in recent assistive devices, this review provides a requirement analysis to consider affective touch in engineering design. By analyzing quantitative and qualitative information from engineering, cognitive psychology, and neuroscienctific research, requirements are gathered and structured. The resulting requirements comprise technical data such as desired motion or force/torque patterns and an evaluation of potential stimulation modalities as well as their relations to overall user experience, e.g., pleasantness and realism of the sensations. This review systematically considers the very specific characteristics of affective touch and the corresponding parts of the neural system to define design goals and criteria. Based on the analysis, design recommendations for interfaces mediating affective touch are derived. This includes a consideration of biological principles and human perception thresholds which are complemented by an analysis of technical possibilities. Finally, we outline which psychological factors can be satisfied by the mediation of affective touch to increase acceptance of assistive devices and outline demands for further research and development.

Weitere Links

20210706_Feel-Good_Requirements_EK.pdf (pdf, 203 KB )

German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz