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2020


Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment
Physical Variables Underlying Tactile Stickiness during Fingerpad Detachment

Nam, S., Vardar, Y., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14(235):1-14, April 2020 (article)

Abstract
One may notice a relatively wide range of tactile sensations even when touching the same hard, flat surface in similar ways. Little is known about the reasons for this variability, so we decided to investigate how the perceptual intensity of light stickiness relates to the physical interaction between the skin and the surface. We conducted a psychophysical experiment in which nine participants actively pressed their finger on a flat glass plate with a normal force close to 1.5 N and detached it after a few seconds. A custom-designed apparatus recorded the contact force vector and the finger contact area during each interaction as well as pre- and post-trial finger moisture. After detaching their finger, participants judged the stickiness of the glass using a nine-point scale. We explored how sixteen physical variables derived from the recorded data correlate with each other and with the stickiness judgments of each participant. These analyses indicate that stickiness perception mainly depends on the pre-detachment pressing duration, the time taken for the finger to detach, and the impulse in the normal direction after the normal force changes sign; finger-surface adhesion seems to build with pressing time, causing a larger normal impulse during detachment and thus a more intense stickiness sensation. We additionally found a strong between-subjects correlation between maximum real contact area and peak pull-off force, as well as between finger moisture and impulse.

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Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception
Changes in Normal Force During Passive Dynamic Touch: Contact Mechanics and Perception

Gueorguiev, D., Lambert, J., Thonnard, J., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

In Proceedings of the IEEE Haptics Symposium (HAPTICS), pages: 746-752, Washington, USA, March 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Using a force-controlled robotic platform, we investigated the contact mechanics and psychophysical responses induced by negative and positive modulations in normal force during passive dynamic touch. In the natural state of the finger, the applied normal force modulation induces a correlated change in the tangential force. In a second condition, we applied talcum powder to the fingerpad, which induced a significant modification in the slope of the correlated tangential change. In both conditions, the same ten participants had to detect the interval that contained a decrease or an increase in the pre-stimulation normal force of 1 N. In the natural state, the 75% just noticeable difference for this task was found to be a ratio of 0.19 and 0.18 for decreases and increases, respectively. With talcum powder on the fingerpad, the normal force thresholds remained stable, following the Weber law of constant just noticeable differences, while the tangential force thresholds changed in the same way as the correlation slopes. This result suggests that participants predominantly relied on the normal force changes to perform the detection task. In addition, participants were asked to report whether the force decreased or increased. Their performance was generally poor at this second task even for above-threshold changes. However, their accuracy slightly improved with the talcum powder, which might be due to the reduced finger-surface friction.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives
Learning to Predict Perceptual Distributions of Haptic Adjectives

Richardson, B. A., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 13(116):1-16, Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
When humans touch an object with their fingertips, they can immediately describe its tactile properties using haptic adjectives, such as hardness and roughness; however, human perception is subjective and noisy, with significant variation across individuals and interactions. Recent research has worked to provide robots with similar haptic intelligence but was focused on identifying binary haptic adjectives, ignoring both attribute intensity and perceptual variability. Combining ordinal haptic adjective labels gathered from human subjects for a set of 60 objects with features automatically extracted from raw multi-modal tactile data collected by a robot repeatedly touching the same objects, we designed a machine-learning method that incorporates partial knowledge of the distribution of object labels into training; then, from a single interaction, it predicts a probability distribution over the set of ordinal labels. In addition to analyzing the collected labels (10 basic haptic adjectives) and demonstrating the quality of our method's predictions, we hold out specific features to determine the influence of individual sensor modalities on the predictive performance for each adjective. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of modeling both the intensity and the variation of haptic perception, two crucial yet previously neglected components of human haptic perception.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Exercising with Baxter: Preliminary Support for Assistive Social-Physical Human-Robot Interaction

Fitter, N. T., Mohan, M., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Johnson, M. J.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 17(19), Febuary 2020 (article)

Abstract
Background: The worldwide population of older adults will soon exceed the capacity of assisted living facilities. Accordingly, we aim to understand whether appropriately designed robots could help older adults stay active at home. Methods: Building on related literature as well as guidance from experts in game design, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, we developed eight human-robot exercise games for the Baxter Research Robot, six of which involve physical human-robot contact. After extensive iteration, these games were tested in an exploratory user study including 20 younger adult and 20 older adult users. Results: Only socially and physically interactive games fell in the highest ranges for pleasantness, enjoyment, engagement, cognitive challenge, and energy level. Our games successfully spanned three different physical, cognitive, and temporal challenge levels. User trust and confidence in Baxter increased significantly between pre- and post-study assessments. Older adults experienced higher exercise, energy, and engagement levels than younger adults, and women rated the robot more highly than men on several survey questions. Conclusions: The results indicate that social-physical exercise with a robot is more pleasant, enjoyable, engaging, cognitively challenging, and energetic than similar interactions that lack physical touch. In addition to this main finding, researchers working in similar areas can build on our design practices, our open-source resources, and the age-group and gender differences that we found.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Compensating for Fingertip Size to Render Tactile Cues More Accurately
Compensating for Fingertip Size to Render Tactile Cues More Accurately

Young, E. M., Gueorguiev, D., Kuchenbecker, K. J., Pacchierotti, C.

IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 13(1):144-151, January 2020, Katherine J. Kuchenbecker and Claudio Pacchierotti contributed equally to this publication. (article)

Abstract
Fingertip haptic feedback offers advantages in many applications, including robotic teleoperation, gaming, and training. However, fingertip size and shape vary significantly across humans, making it difficult to design fingertip interfaces and rendering techniques suitable for everyone. This article starts with an existing data-driven haptic rendering algorithm that ignores fingertip size, and it then develops two software-based approaches to personalize this algorithm for fingertips of different sizes using either additional data or geometry. We evaluate our algorithms in the rendering of pre-recorded tactile sensations onto rubber casts of six different fingertips as well as onto the real fingertips of 13 human participants. Results on the casts show that both approaches significantly improve performance, reducing force error magnitudes by an average of 78% with respect to the standard non-personalized rendering technique. Congruent results were obtained for real fingertips, with subjects rating each of the two personalized rendering techniques significantly better than the standard non-personalized method.

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot
Getting in Touch with Children with Autism: Specialist Guidelines for a Touch-Perceiving Robot

Burns, R. B., Seifi, H., Lee, H., Kuchenbecker, K. J.

Paladyn. Journal of Behavioral Robotics, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Children with autism need innovative solutions that help them learn to master everyday experiences and cope with stressful situations. We propose that socially assistive robot companions could better understand and react to a child’s needs if they utilized tactile sensing. We examined the existing relevant literature to create an initial set of six tactile-perception requirements, and we then evaluated these requirements through interviews with 11 experienced autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. Thematic analysis of the comments shared by the specialists revealed three overarching themes: the touch-seeking and touch-avoiding behavior of autistic children, their individual differences and customization needs, and the roles that a touch-perceiving robot could play in such interactions. Using the interview study feedback, we refined our initial list into seven qualitative requirements that describe robustness and maintainability, sensing range, feel, gesture identification, spatial, temporal, and adaptation attributes for the touch-perception system of a robot companion for children with autism. Lastly, by utilizing the literature and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing, we transformed these qualitative requirements into quantitative specifications. We discuss the implications of these requirements for future HRI research in the sensing, computing, and user research communities.

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Project Page [BibTex]