Today is the turn to explore the activities that the human being realizes by touching. I have included the taste sense here because our tongue is the organ of excellence specifically designed to touch and taste everything we introduce in our mouth. Distinguishing from the rest of the skin, the tongue is capable of gustatory sensation and perception of flavors.
Our organism is covered by skin (on average 1.8 square meters), and we can touch with it. Nevertheless, our hands and fingers utilize our cutaneous sense of primary activities designed to touch everything surrounding us. However, we also can touch with our face, our legs, our feet and the rest of our body.
There are disruptive technologies that affect or will impact our capacity to taste and to touch.
Tasting with our tongue is the feeling that is produced when it touches a particular food or drink. The tongue is simply the soft movable part in our mouth that is strategically positioned in between our teeth and is used for tasting and speaking. It is also called lingua. Our brains learn to recognize different flavors that our tongue touches through the taste buds, in consequence, to touch is more than a sensation, it is also a perception realized by our brains.
Tactile technologies affect our brains. We will stick our definition of Tactile Technology to a way to use the advances we have made in technology with our primordial sense of touch. A tactile technology can be out of ourselves, as the touch screens. Furthermore, there are tactile technologies designed to replace our finger touch or to enhance it or to manipulate it. At this point in time (2020), we can see many of these haptic applications for touch commercially. The most common ones are touch screens:
- touch screens at points of sale
- touch screens in information- and payment kiosks
- touch devices for educational purposes (self-awareness applications, health, and safety in the working environment applications, training and review applications)
- touch dashboards in automating processes (industrial companies that are replacing traditional keyboard and mouse setups by touch screen driven configurations)
- touch screens in banking
- touch devices in the medical industry for surgeries and health measurement indicators, etc.
In the case of the taste technologies, the tongue has played a crucial role since the paleolithic age. Through our gustatory papillae (taste buds or clusters of neuro-epithelial cells inside our oral cavity, epiglottis, and larynx); we are able to hint, classify and like/dislike everything we tinge; from food, drinks, pharmaceutical medications, toxic substances or chemical venom. It seems to me there are and will be technologies that can enhance or even replace the function of the tongue. This is another rising use of artificial intelligence, even though this field is still in infancy. Be aware that if AI doesn´t regulate its domains, researchers and scientists will inevitably try to replicate the sense of taste by relying on artificial taste buds that will learn to perceive the bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami (savory) sensations. Artificial taste buds will be used in the food, pharmaceutical, security, and agriculture industry, as well as for medical care treatments.
Let´s explore some of the existing disruptive tactile technologies beyond the touchscreens:
- Touchscreens: Since the iPhone emerged to kick out the Blackberry out of the market, the tactile interface devices have already replaced every single mobile phone, screen machines, smartboards, TVs and computer dashboards connected to robotics, automobiles, planes, spacecraft and industrial machines. The tablets are merely our consumer end-user alternative which has massively been marketed to all of us during the last decade.
- Multimodal Tactile Sensors (Nicholas Wettels, Jeremy Fishel and Gerarld Loeb 2013): These are finger-shaped sensor arrays (BioTac®) that provide simultaneous information about contact forces, micro-vibrations, and thermal fluxes, mimicking the full cutaneous sensory capabilities of the human finger.
- Finger tracking Tactile Systems: finger-based interactions in immersive virtual reality applications. The system consists of tracked thimbles for the fingers with shape memory alloy wires wrapped around each thimble. These wires touch the inside of the fingertips and provide an impression when they are shortened.
- Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Health Monitoring Displays. These little devices are adored by physicians.
- Tactile Data Glove and Prosthetics Sensors: Fabric-based sensors are used to flexibly cover larger surfaces, thus forming a “robot skin.” A tactile-sensitive glove allows interaction forces to be measured when humans handle objects. This is an example of the wearable tactile sensors industry with innumerable applications in medicine, security, etc.
- Robotic hands with tactile sensing: For example the iLimb prosthetics hand from Touch Bionics, which helps amputees to regain their sense of touch. Source: https://www.ossur.com/en-us/prosthetics/arms/i-limb-ultra-titanium
- CITEC Tactile Fingertips and Fingernails: a miniaturized version of the tactile sensing array, fitted to the 3D shape of a fingertip in order to provide twelve sensing elements. The idea is to equip all ten fingers of the robot hands with these sensors, so they can react to unforeseen environmental contacts notice failures, and grasp more robustly.
- Smart Touch Projectors: A smart projector that turns any surface into the tactile surface. This product has been shown at the CES 2020 (Las Vegas).
- The tactile Internet technologies: Defined by the IEEE as an “Network or network of networks for remotely accessing, perceiving, manipulating or controlling real or virtual objects or processes in perceived real-time by humans or machines.”
Again, I am not against disruptive technologies when their purposes are to help those who can´t touch. But I am against them when it comes to massify them as we did it with the Smartphone, just for the sake of making money and disrupt our beautiful natural life. What I believe is that human beings, in their quest to find help through artificial intelligence, are switching the core of their innovations by creating a parallel robotic machine system, with the promise to be more accurate and reliable than humans. With time, our brain capabilities to taste and to touch will become lazy if we become codependent of these types of gadgets, and our brains will diminish their capacity to learn to distinguish touching and flavors. I am scared of this because if humans don´t exercise and practice with their brains, we will involution instead of evolving. Brains that don´t stretch themselves are lazy and ridiculously shallow, and we will become dumbs of our own creations in the future. There will be a time in which the machines will control, command and govern us, simply because we won´t be able to govern ourselves given the involution of our brains. Do we want that for the next generations?
This is it for today. In my next publication, I will finish with the taste technologies; and we will start with the see and listen (hear) activities. Thank you.
Sources of reference utilized for this article:
Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.