A new technology can stimulate different areas of the hand to convey feelings of happiness, sadness, excitement or fear without making physical contact with your body.
According to Marianna Obrist from University of Sussex's department of informatics, short, sharp bursts of air to the area around the thumb, index finger and middle part of the palm generate excitement whereas sad feelings are created by slow and moderate stimulation of the outer palm and the area around the "pinky" finger.
Imagine a couple that has just had a fight before going to work.
"While she is in a meeting, she receives a gentle sensation transmitted through her bracelet on the right part of her hand moving into the middle of the palm. That sensation comforts her and indicates that her partner is not angry anymore," Obrist explained.
These sensations were generated in the experiment using the Ultrahaptics system.
The system enables creating sensations of touch through air to stimulate different parts of the hand.
During the study, one group of participants was asked to create patterns to describe the emotions evoked by five separate images: calm scenery with trees, white-water rafting, a graveyard, a car on fire and a wall clock.
The participants were able to manipulate the position, direction, frequency, intensity and duration of the stimulations.
A second group then selected the stimulations created by the first group that they felt best described the emotions evoked by the images.
They chose the best two for each image, making a total of 10.
Finally, a third group experienced all 10 selected stimulations while viewing each image in turn and rated how well each stimulation described the emotion evoked by each image.
The third group gave significantly higher ratings to stimulations, when they were presented together with the image they were intended for, proving that the emotional meaning had been successfully communicated between the first and third groups.
"A similar technology could be used between parent and baby, or to enrich audio-visual communication in a long-distance relationships," the authors noted.
It also has huge potential for "one-to-many" communication -- for example, dancers at a club could raise their hands to receive haptic stimulation that enhances feelings of excitement and stability.
"Relatively soon, we may be able to realise truly compelling and multi-faceted media experiences, such as nine-dimensional TV or computer games that evoke emotions through taste," Obrist concluded.
The findings were presented at the "CHI 2015" conference in South Korea on April 21.