hold on tight

testing out the pods

holding hands without really holding hands using HOT

In 2011 I attended a 4-day Sketching Haptics workshop, which was led by interaction designer Camille Mousettet. Haptic sketching is a approach aimed at supporting the development of rapid physical prototypes using puppetry and simple actuation (with devices like arduino). I already had some prior experience with arduino, but the workshop compelled me to dive in even deeper into the world of sensors and actuators. Since the workshop, this type of exploratory, hands on prototyping has become a go-to method for tackling new problems or testing the boundaries of my design ideas. (Also see my day 2 project.)

On days 3/4, myself and another attendee applied our increasingly competent to created Hold On Tight (HOT), a prototype intended to support the feeling of holding hands between two remote users. We were inspired by the Design Incubation Center’s Roly Poly (2010) and Noriyuki Fujimura’s Remote Furniture (1999), both of which explore how haptics can support communication between people at a distance.  We built the prototype using two mouse-shaped pods, but had to make do with faking physical distance with the creation of a hastily assembled divider. Each pod used a pressure sensor under the thumb to detect squeezing and an optical sensor to detect proximity to the device. We generated that warm, hand-holding feeling with Peltier junctions. Finally, to tie the devices together and make it all run, we used two Arduinos with motor shields to monitor the inputs and control the outputs of each pod.

When someone approaches one of the pods, the pod in the other location shakes to notify the person in that location that someone wants to hold their hand! If a person then approaches the vibrating pod in response, the first pod also shakes to let the first user know that someone is now the other end. Finally, once one person person squeezes the pod, the other pod will heat up – and vice versa. And voila! That satisfying feeling of holding hands.

methods and tools
haptic sketching
foam, cork and fabric
sensors and output devices
some newly acquired electronic assembly know-how


demo of HOT

This entry was posted in .