Introduction to Shokuraku Rediscovering the world through touch is a collaborative work of the author (Yasuaki Kakehi) and members of the TECHTILE project: haptic scientist Masashi Nakatani, Virtual Reality (VR) researcher Kouta Minamizawa, and artist Soichiro Mihara.
Introduction to Shokuraku focuses on tactile sensations and the act of “touching” that we engage in without much thought in our daily lives. “Shokuraku” is a term invented by the authors by combining the characters for “touch” (shoku: 触) and “fun” (raku: 楽). It refers to the art and science of enjoying tactile sensations. For example, unique textures of different materials and newly created tactile sensations may be enjoyed in the same way as composing and listening to music, and we seek to lay the groundwork for this new art form.
The first section summarizes how tactile perception works from biological and psychological perspectives. The surface of the skin and what lies underneath is explored: the distribution and roles of various nerves and nerve endings that provide us with information on pressure, force, and temperature changes detected in the form of cutaneous sensations. Humans can also recall sensations in response to visual and auditory cues or even from memory alone. Therefore, we can experience tactile sensations in several ways without touching actual objects. We discuss the wonders of touch as an integrated sensibility and present several easy experiments to demonstrate unique concepts related to it. New discoveries in scientific studies on tactile sensation have also been described.
Introduction to Shokuraku goes beyond understanding the sense of touch. Technologies that manipulate tactile experiences are drawing attention as the next-generation medium within the areas of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). Therefore, the second half of this book discusses new designs in engineering and expanded notions of tactile experiences, and presents each tool through specific examples.
For example, we have developed the “TECHTILE toolkit” for recording, processing, and reproducing tactile sensations. This description may evoke images of a large and complex system, but the kit actually consists of just three parts: microphone module, vibration module, and amplifier box. A simple experiment can be conducted by using two empty paper cups and connecting one to the microphone module and the other to the vibration module. When a marble is dropped into the first cup with the microphone module, the sensation of the marble hitting the bottom of the cup will be experienced in the hand holding the other cup. This toolkit consisting of three simple components can be used to transfer or amplify tactile sensations or play digitalized tactile data. The later chapters shed light on a new phenomenon made possible by the toolkit and touch upon new tactile experiences using various examples of leading technology.
Discussions in this book go beyond the existing technology related to tactile sensation and actively discuss its future. We hope that this book can serve as an introduction to bring people into the world of Shokuraku in communications, welfare, or entertainment, in a future enriched by new applications of this modality.
(Written by KAKEHI Yasuaki, Associate Professor, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies / 2019)