Until recently even the most sophisticated devices relied on only two of the five senses - sight and hearing - to communicate. But now haptics, the technology of touch, is set to add a third.
Tokyo university researcher Takuya Nojima has built a probe that slips easily through oil but drags when its sensor detects water molecules - the first step towards a haptic scalpel, allowing surgeons to feel their way through cancerous tissue or around nerve fibres.
In Indiana, Purdue University's sensingChair uses pressure sensors to track your posture in real time. That could keep you sitting upright in the office.
And at Trinity College, Dublin, Haptica has developed Guido, a walking frame that, when it senses an obstacle, gently steers the user away