As virtual reality headsets hit the market, they bring with them the echoes of Macbeth’s words: the world they immerse you in might look or even sound right, but can’t be touched or grasped. Seeing a dagger on the table before you, you might try to reach for it, but as your arm simply goes through the air, you are left with the ghostly feeling that things are not so real. Impalpable objects are not convincing, and integrating touch into new technologies is the next frontier. But why, to Macbeth and to us, does touch matter so much? What does it bring, that vision doesn’t?
Missing a whole family of sensations can be disturbing – yet the absence of tactile experiences seems to have more damaging consequences than the absence of other experiences, for instance olfactory ones.