Winky is a haptic communication interface that connects people through a set of vibrational motors located in different areas of their bodies. Ultimately, our purpose is to study and create a haptic-digital language relying on vectorized dictionaries that account for movement and emotion. The vibrational motors are connected through Bluetooth to a drawing and voice-activated application on their smartphones.
The application allows to activate other user’s winkies in different patterns and through motions of their fingers on the touchscreen, and through a NPL interface that codes for emotions on words. I collaborated with Kiran Bhattacharyya, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at Northwestern. We built the hardware with microcontrollers available commercially, and built the apps with the MIT app inventor and Firebase.
We have been developing Winky over the fall 2017 quarter, and have already gone through the processes of concept building, researching about existing haptic interfaces, prototyping both the hardware and software and carrying out user research. We project to have a working prototype by January 10th.
Conceptually, we are interested in how information is originated in the body and undergoes conversions that in turn affect the body again. This diffuseness of information-body creates a cyclical motion involving cognition, physiology, spatiotemporal locations of body parts, emotional aspects of voice and social connectivity and language processing.
Winky is an example of how haptic interfaces’ emotional aspects, and digital communication through touch, can make people-users aware of these cyclical connections and material-symbolic transformations.