Shifting Design Perspectives: Touch, Co-Location, and Sharing Objects during the Pandemic

Kimiko Ryokai, Nicole Marie Bulalacao, Sandra Jacobo, Prasad Boradkar, Kelly Dobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


HCI research has explored a variety of technologies to support human-to-human touch by simulating or mediating the feeling of touch over distance. Restrictions in activities involving touch, close contact, and physical proximity due to the COVID-19 pandemic have made it more pertinent to understand and investigate the goals, opportunities, and limitations of technologically mediated touch. We conducted an exploratory interview study with 18 participants across the United States in April and June of 2021 to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s attitudes towards engaging in touch, being co-located, and sharing physical objects. We observed four themes: new efforts to evaluate safety, new preferences for physically co-locating without touch, technology solutions amplifying separation, and a newfound appreciation for human touch and touch-adjacent activities. These results suggest that future touch technologies may need to shift focus from simulating human touch convincingly to allowing for interactions that incorporate these emergent sensitivities to safety and preferences for physical co-location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number74
JournalMultimodal Technologies and Interaction
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • CCS concepts
  • COVID-19 pandemic CCS concepts
  • HCI design and evaluation methods
  • haptics
  • human-centered computing
  • human–computer interaction (HCI)
  • interview study
  • objects
  • physical co-location
  • touch


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