Need for Touch in Human Space Exploration: Towards the Design of a Morphing Haptic Glove
Abstract. The spacesuit, particularly the spacesuit glove, creates a barrier between astronauts and their environment. Motivated by the vision of facilitating full-body immersion for effortless space exploration, it is necessary to understand the sensory needs of astronauts during extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). In this paper, we present the outcomes from a two-week field study performed at the Mars Desert Research Station, a facility where crews carry out Marssimulated missions. We used a combination of methods (a haptic logbook, technology probes, and interviews) to investigate user needs for haptic feedback in EVAs in order to inform the design of a haptic glove. Our results contradict the common belief that a haptic technology should always convey as much information as possible, but should rather offer a controllable transfer. Based on these findings, we identified two main design requirements to enhance haptic feedback through the glove: (i) transfer of the shape and pressure features of haptic information and (ii) control of the amount of haptic information. We present the implementation of these design requirements in the form of the concept and first prototype of ExoSkin. ExoSkin is a morphing haptic feedback layer that augments spacesuit gloves by controlling the transfer of haptic information from the outside world onto the astronauts’ skin.