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Interview with Afference's Jacob Segil

Jacob Segil, CEO and Co-Founder of Afference, is a featured presenter at Smart Haptics 2023. Ahead of the conference, Producer Rebecca List sat down with Jacob to discuss his presentation and his excitement for the 2023 event!

Why have you decided to present at Smart Haptics 2023?

The age of spatial computing has arrived and we are neuroscientists creating artificial sensations. The fusion of these technologies in the years ahead will accelerate us towards novel digital interactions and experiences. We wish to share our perspectives on these exciting developments and how they are related to the haptic industry at large.

Your presentation is titled Artificial Touch through Wearable Neural Interfaces. Can you tell us more about why you’re excited to share your insights with this year’s attendees?

We wish to share a new concept which we call artificial touch. Our methods of neural interfacing do not require actuators pressing on the skin. In other words, we are creating tactile sensation without using the skin. This new method enables several advantages including referred sensation where feelings of touch can occur away from the wearable or actuator.

What do you think are some of the challenges currently facing this industry? How does an event like this help to address and explore those challenges?

We are watching the spatial computing industry closely. We believe that haptic information will be necessary for hand-based interactions in 3D environments to be satisfactory to the consumer. Most spatial computing platforms today have ignored the need for haptic information when using hand-based interactions. We hope to bring this problem to the forefront of the haptics industry and share our concepts for how to address it.

What are some of the most interesting and/or innovative solutions that are impacting your work? 

 The acceleration of spatial computing platforms from major hardware providers like Meta, Apple, Sony, and others is creating a new age of digital interaction. Hand tracking systems are allowing for new digital experiences and creative minds are leveraging those platforms for new entertainment and pragmatic use cases. We are following these developments closely since we believe that this is the start of a spatial computing age where we will be surrounded by digital content as opposed to just interacting with two-dimensional screens.

What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

We are looking forward to sharing our early-progress at Afference and learning about the deep experience of the field at large.