University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator


Big Question: Faster Transitioning to a new Body Schema using Wearable Haptics

University of Chicago Big Questions

Principal Investigator: Pedro Lopes, Computer Science

Funding Type: Vision

Big Idea: We will engineer and study how wearable haptic devices can accelerate the embodiment of a worn passive device, such as a prosthetic extension (e.g., chest guard that supports gender transition) or even an accessory (e.g., odd shaped backpack from a bike messenger). The key idea behind our device is that it can redirect and remap touch from the new body part (e.g., the chest guard) to the wearer’s body. Using our device feels similar to tapping our own skin, we feel a tap at our fingertips as they contact the chest guard and an associated tactile impulse at our skin; the latter is generated by the vibrotactile actuators when the tactile sensor embedded in the chest guard detects a touch. This way, users can explore how their bodies might feel after the hormone therapy or surgery. Our project is original in three ways: (1) We explore this effect outside of rehabilitation for amputees and other medical conditions. (2) We propose using it for serving a new segment of the population that is rarely the focus of research prototypes (e.g., those transitioning genders). (3) We engineer a wearable haptic device to achieve redirection with high spatial and temporal fidelity.

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