Haptics - the study of touching behavior - is more important than you might think, if your only knowledge of humans came from looking at the objects that they buy. A trip to Best Buy might have you thinking that sight is most important - just look at those big TVs, cameras and DVDs. Remember, though, the biggest organ you have - your skin. Touching is important because it provides information about textures and because it is an essential element in nonverbal communication.
The Haptic Creature detects the way it is being touched using pressure sensors; it responds with "breathing" movements of its body, inaudible purring vibrations or by moving its ears. It can vary these nonverbal cues to successfully communicate a wide range of emotions to human test subjects.
"I had a cat for many years, and what I miss most about interacting with her is touch," Yohanan says. "For example, the cat would sit in my lap while I worked at the computer – I would scratch the top of her head and feel her purr."
I'm guessing that many of you are thinking "tribble!" right about now.
(The Trouble with Tribbles)
Tribbles are, of course, cute little natives of the planet Iota Geminorum IV. They communicate entirely by purring and gentle wiggling motions. One thing about tribbles to remember, though; don't feed them, because then you'll have a zillion of them.
Via NewScientist; thanks to Mike Wahl for the tip on this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/22/2008)