Conjure up two images: a rock and a feather. If you really concentrate, can you feel the hard, cool surface of the rock, and the soft, light touch of the feather?  

Our sense of touch is very specific. We know what a rock or feather should feel like, even if we don't know why we know that.  

In this TED talk from Katherine Kuchenbecker, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kuchenbecker describes research that is working to incorporate the sense of touch, known as haptics, into human-computer interfaces. The research is using technology to enhance our sense of touch and even duplicate it to transform the way we play computer games, shop online and even get our teeth cleaned. 

Imagine if you could feel that shirt on Amazon before you bought it. Or if you could feel a museum sculptures that you would never be allowed to touch. Imagine if a dental student could understand how a cavity "feels" at the click of a button.  

Is that where the field of haptics is headed?  

Check out Kuchenbecker's talk and see what you think...

Watch: The technology of touch
A new understanding about the science of touch could change everything from the way we shop online to how dentists learn the telltale feel of a cavity.