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Mobile Phones Enhanced to Transmit Emphasis, Emotions

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Computer scientists at University of Helsinki in Finland developed enhancements to mobile phones that enable callers to express their emotions during calls through tactile sensory devices. A team led by postdoctoral researcher Eve Hoggan in Helsinki’s Institute of Information Technology described the technology they call ForcePhone at ACM’s User Interface Software and Technology symposium in Boston earlier this month (purchased download).

Hoggan, with colleagues from Helsinki’s Ubiquitous Interaction research group and Nokia Research Center, created ForcePhone by adding sensors that capture increased physical pressure from squeezing the device. On the receiving end, the phone translates the squeezing pressure into vibrations. The researchers call these tactile-vibration exchanges “pressages.”

Mobile devices, the researchers note, already have sensors that can detect pressure as well as the ability to vibrate, but these capabilities are used for purposes other than real-time communications. ForcePhone adds the ability to transmit pressages by capturing the pressure felt by sensors as part of the phone call and having the other party’s ForcePhone react accordingly with vibrations.

The Helsinki team developed a ForcePhone prototype with the Nokia Research Center modifying an off-the-shelf mobile device that the researchers tested in the lab and in field trials. Those testing the device said they used pressages to emphasize parts of their conversations, express affection and presence, and surprise the other parties on the call.

During the tests of ForcePhone, all of the calls included pressages, with a typical call lasting 4 minutes and 43 seconds, and an average of 15.6 pressages per call. The ForcePhone testers indicated that when using the technology, they made some changes in their calling behavior. All of the participants noted, for example, that they started to pause briefly after sending a pressage to make time for it in the conversation.

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