The Technology of Touch (video)

“As we move through the world, we have an innate sense of how things feel — the sensations they produce on our skin and how our bodies orient to them. Can technology leverage this? In this fun, fascinating TED-Ed lesson, learn about the field of haptics, and how it could change everything from the way we shop online to how dentists learn the telltale feel of a cavity.”

YouTube: Haptography: Digitizing our sense of touch

There there are those of us (me included) moan about the march of technological innovation over function, development for the sake of it. Few can argue that bringing technology into the fore for those with disadvantages is a bad thing, that developing and using technology to enable.

While Katherine shows a couple of uses and examples in the video what else can we do with this, how can this be used in education? By introducing touch in this way you can bring any substance or texture to the classroom where it would not be possible (or safe) to do so. What does moon rock feel like? What does hard enamel tell you about the integrity of a tooth? What does the surface of a scarf feel like when it’s frozen in liquid nitrogen? How do you spot a possible failure in an engine block when it’s running at 9000 rpm. To experience these things can bring the subject, the science, the learning alive where you would not always be able to?

What do you think, a worthwhile use of enhanced technology and something that can ‘add value’ to a classroom experience?

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  • I have long been impressed with the work of Sarah Baillie and the ‘Haptic Cow’. The Haptic Cow was developed to help train veterinary students to palpate a cow’s reproductive tract, to perform fertility examinations and to diagnose pregnancy. The simulator uses haptic (touch feedback) technology and has a PHANToM haptic device (from SensAble Technologies) positioned inside a fibreglass model of the rear-half of a cow.
    From a student’s perspective risk taking in medicine (with live patients human or animal) has dangerous consequences. Being able to explore the right and wrong way to perform a task though this technology has to be a positive way to learn.