In the News

Physical Touch Technology Adds Dimension to Communications
by Karon Thackston

It’s simply amazing! Look at all we have accomplished over the years with communications technology. We have gone from mailing letters to transmitting voice communication via telephone sets to instantaneous “chatting” on the Internet. It’s incredible. Yet, with all we have accomplished we, as human beings, are growing further apart and more isolated. Why?

With all the technology at hand, we are still missing the human touch. Scientists have proven that babies need touch in order to develop normally. According to Dr. Lise Eliot during an interview on, “The best form of stimulation involves direct interaction with their caregivers… particularly holding and rocking, all these instinctive behaviors, it turns out, are the most potent form of stimulation as well as being best for a child's emotional development.”

As human beings, our reception to communication is based on several factors. Approximately 90% of our face-to-face interaction is based on body language, 8% on tone of voice and 2% on what is actually said. The tone of voice and the words themselves are covered in various forms of contact. But what about the body language? What about reaching for someone’s hand as you speak? What about physical touch? How can remote communications even come close bridging the electronic gap?

To date, the remote communications apparatus we have available is sorely lacking in this physical dimension. But no longer! A company called Real Time Touch out of Apline, California ( has developed a way to include touching in our electronic, wireless devices.

Other companies have already successfully marketed enhancements for the virtual world that include the vibration of a steering wheel or joystick during a video game, a mouse that “senses” textures of onscreen objects and the like. But RealTimeTouch (RTT) has eclipsed those virtual sensations and created live, real-time touch (thus the company’s name).

With the implementation of this technology, cellular phones will be able to offer handshakes between users. Communication via pagers can be conducted through dialing the telephone and entering a number or by simply squeezing the pager. On-line gaming (using both computers and cell phones) will evolve from a visual sport to a contact sport as players have the ability to slap a “high five” with their partner each time they score.

Is it the same old forced feedback system? No! With FFB (or tactical feedback) the interaction is solely with whatever is on the computer monitor. For example, as a mouse rolls over the graphic of a wool coat, a sensation is sent through the mouse to your hand and finger. With RealTimeTouch technology, we are able to physically interact with other people at a distance. This higher level of physical contact greatly improves the ability of us all to communicate with added dimension.

So how does it work? Using the example of a handshake via cellular phone, one person squeezes a RealTime Touch (RTT) device (input). The device transduces the movement and force into a digital or analog signal (output). An existing communications carrier is used to transmit the output data signal to the other device (a cell phone or land phone handset). The second person’s RTT phone receives the signal and transduces it into the intended physical output (the device expands in the user’s hand) creating the “shake”. The system allows the physical data to transfer as quickly and orderly as human speech (or faster).

Unlike forced feedback, which still relies on software and programming to function, RTT devices will rely first on human communication, emotions, intuition and live brains for control. This is a real breakthrough for realistic remote, person-to-person communications.

Businesses can close a deal with a handshake, even if the parties involved are hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Salespeople can communicate with the office more safely while driving by squeezing their integrated steering wheels to send a message rather than dialing a cell phone. Video conferencing will move to a higher level with the inclusion of RTT technology. Loved ones can send a reassuring touch during times of crisis.

RealTime Touch is a division of the Design Systems Research & Development Corporation, which currently has international patents pending in over 100 countries. They have plans to license the technology to manufacturers, content developers, and service providers in the related wired and wireless industries.

The old AT&T slogan, “Reach out and touch someone” may have taken awhile to come into its time, but with the addition of RTT technology it is finally a statement of truth.

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