And the technologies that Kuchenbecker and her team are developing have a number of real world applications. They have created a stylus, for example, that when applied to the screen of a tablet, allows the holder to "feel" different surfaces. The stylus imitates the way it would feel to touch a piece of silk or a rough piece of canvas.
Kuchenbecker believes that this tool could find application in the realm of online shopping, where consumers could get a virtual feel of a fabric or other material before purchasing it. The stylus could also be used to create interactive museum exhibits, allowing visitors to "feel" sculptures or artifacts without having to handle them.
Another haptic technology could find practical application in medical training. An accelerometer attached to a dental tool could help dentists-in-training determine which teeth have cavities and which are healthy.
This technology works by recording the measurements associated with touch in the real world- in this case, the different feelings a dentist experiences when touching a healthy versus unhealthy tooth- and then replicating them with haptic tools, like a dental explorer.