Researchers are exploring the potential of ‘digitalised touch’ in social media. 

A device enabling social media users to communicate through touch could enhance connections between users, according to researchers.

An international team has conducted a study using a robotic sleeve that simulates affectionate touch to assess its impact compared to visual emoticons.

The study participants posting on a mock social media platform. 

The participants received feedback either through visual emoticons or through a stroke on the arm by the robotic sleeve, which was designed to mimic the sensation of touch. 

The results indicated that participants felt greater support and approval when they received the robotic touch, compared to just visual emoticons.

The researchers included both visual and tactile feedback in their experiments. 

Participants reported a preference for receiving feedback that combined both forms over either type alone. 

The study found that tactile feedback could provide additional context to visual emoticons, which are often misinterpreted. 

Additionally, the type of touch was significant; touches that activated the C-Tactile nervous system, associated with positive emotions, were more favourably received.

“Touch has long been essential to human bonding and survival, yet in our digitised world we are more isolated and touch-deprived than ever. What if we could use 'digitalised touch' to bring us closer in communicating emotions in today's world?” the authors asked.

The full study is accessible here.