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Emotion Whisperer Haptic Sleeve

Feeling facial expressions

What is the Emotion Whisperer Haptic Sleeve?

The Emotion Whisperer is a functional concept for a wearable that aims to help visually impaired people feel facial expressions. The function of the haptic sleeve in this wearable is to convey these expressions through haptic feedback:

  • It has 16 integrated vibration motors and is capable of conveying 24 distinct vibration patterns.
  • These patterns can indicate both the intensity and type of the six base emotions.

It is a collaboration between Elitac Wearables and our client Simon Dogger, inclusive product designer. Thanks to our haptic feedback expertise and building blocks, we were able to deliver a functional, good-looking garment with accessible operating software within 78 hours of development time.

A haptic feedback sleeve on a dummy arm

Haptic feedback to convey facial expressions

Visually impaired people miss out on an important part of human interactions: The facial expressions and body language that help one understand people’s emotions.

Our client Simon Dogger envisaged a solution to this issue in the form of the Emotion Whisperer wearable. This concept consists of a pair of smart glasses, emotion recognition software and a haptic feedback sleeve that conveys emotions to the wearer through vibrations:

  • The app recognises both the type of emotion (out of the six base emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger) and the intensity.
  • This data is then relayed to the user via a haptic feedback sleeve that relays the type and intensity of emotion to the wearer through intuitive vibrations.
  • The result? You can actually feel when someone is smiling, or sad, or surprised.

How does the haptic sleeve work?

Side view of a haptic feedback sleeve
The haptic sleece contains 16 integrated tactors that are capable of delivering 24 pre-programmed haptic feedback patterns.
All layers are made of stretch material and the cables are specifically designed to stay in place when the sleeve is pulled over the (wider) hand.
Some clever design choices make it suitable for visually impaired users: A thumb hole makes it impossible to wear the sleeve the wrong way around.
Pull straps on the top and bottom guide the wearer when pulling the sleeve on.


24 distinct haptic feedback patterns

These patterns consist of combinations of taps and strokes on various parts of the lower arm, making each pattern unique and distinctive.

Sensory substitution

When other senses become overloaded or impaired as a result of medical disorders, the sense of touch can serve as a substitute to convey information. It is generally underutilised compared to the other senses.

Intuitive communication

Research has shown that haptic feedback is a very efficient and intuitive means of communicating information.

Accessible design

The sleeve is designed such that it is easy to put on and operate without visual indicators, making it accessible to visually impaired users.

Project background

Proof of concept

The Emotion Whisperer is a concept envisioned by designer Simon Dogger. To continue developing and testing the Emotion Whisperer concept, Mr Dogger asked Elitac Wearables to create a Proof of Concept for the haptic feedback sleeve. This sleeve will convey the type and intensity of the emotions to the wearer.

We used our haptic feedback expertise and hardware and software building blocks to conduct the Feasibility Check and develop the Proof of Concept in under 78 hours of development time. The sleeve was delivered in early 2021, and will be used to test the extent to which users are able to learn and recognise emotions through the various haptic cues.

I’m really happy with the quality of the haptic feedback in the sleeve delivered by Elitac Wearables. Moreover, they were able to develop the wearable within the subsidy budget.

Simon Dogger, Inclusive Product Designer

Do you too have an idea for the haptic sleeve?

The haptic feedback sleeve we have developed has huge potential beyond the Emotion Whisperer. For example, to communicate social touch at a distance or to help visually impaired people navigate.

If you’re interested in incorporating the haptic feedback sleeve in your own wearable design, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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