This telephone touches you based on your emotions

Bursts of air to trigger pressure points on the hand that stimulate a particular emotional responses.


Published Apr 26, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 11:48 pm CDT


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Sometimes words fail at conveying your real feelings, but a new technology could revolutionize communication and foster empathy in difficult situations.

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Enter the ‘telephone for feelings’


Ultrahaptics, developed by Dr. Marianna Obrist and her team at the University of Sussex, can literally transmit emotions through thin air. It’s like a telephone for feelings. The technology works by using bursts of air to trigger pressure points on the hand that stimulate a particular emotional responses. Simply place your hand over a the grid and you’ll start to feel the air working its magic.

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There is a real science behind the way we feel certain emotions with our hands. Negative emotions such as fear and sadness are triggered by gentle, softer bursts of air along the pinky and outer palm—think of brushing someone’s hand to hold it but being denied. Positive emotions such as happiness and excitement are triggered by stronger pulses at the center of the palm.

This little 30-second video demonstrates the way Ultrahaptics uses air to trigger emotion.

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CEO Steve Cliffe said “Ultrahaptics’ technology will change the way we interact with devices forever” and he may be right. It could completely transform the way we communicate online, making long distance relationships and Skype sessions feel less distant and more real. It’s almost like holding someones hand, and could help you deeply feel what your partner feels when you can’t be there to experience their emotions with them.

Ultrahaptics also has potential in the gaming world. It could help create a more immersive, emotive experience, especially when paired with virtual reality.

If you’re questioning whether the technology actually works, check out these reactions of people using it for the first time. Visit Ultrahaptics’ website for more information.

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H/T | Photo via Emily Rachel Hildebrand/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Apr 26, 2015, 9:00 am CDT