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I'm a mechanical engineering professor
at the University of Pennsylvania
and my favorite hobby is photography.
And as I travel around the world,
I love taking photographs like these
so I can remember all the beautiful
and interesting things that I've seen.
But what I can't do is record and share
how these objects feel to touch.
And that's kind of surprising
because your sense of touch is really important.
It's involved in every physical interaction you do every day,
every manipulation task,
anything you do in the world.
And so the sense of touch is actually pretty interesting.
It has two main components.
The first is tactile sensations,
things you feel in your skin.
And the second is kinesthetic sensations,
and this has to do with the position of your body,
and how it's moving,
and the forces you encounter.
And you're really good at incorporating
both of these types of sensations together
to understand the physical interactions
you have with the world
and understand as you touch a surface,
is it a rock, is it a cat, is it a bunny, what is it?
And so, as an engineer, I'm really fascinated
and I have a lot of respect for
how good people are with their hands.
And I'm intrigued and curious
about whether we could make technology better
by doing a better job at leveraging
the human capability with the sense of touch.
Could I improve the interfaces to computers and machines
by letting you take advantage of your hands?
And indeed, I think we can,
and that's at the core of a field called "haptics,"
and this is the area that I work in.
It's all about interactive touch technology.
And the way it works is,
as you move your body through the world,
if, as an engineer, I can make a system
that can measure that motion,
and then present to you sensations over time
that kind of make sense,
that match up with what you might feel in the real world,
I can fool you into thinking you're touching something
even though there's nothing there.
All right, so here are three examples
and these are all done from research in my lab at Penn.
The first one is all about
that same problem that I was showing you:
how can we capture how objects feel
and recreate those experiences?
So the way we solve this problem
is by creating a hand-held tool
that has many different sensors inside.
It has a force sensor
so we can tell how hard you're pushing,
it has motion tracking
so we tell exactly where you've moved it,
and it has a vibration sensor,
an accelerometer, inside
that detects the shaking back and forth of the tool
that let's you know that's a piece of canvas
and not a piece of silk or something else.
And then we take the data that we record
from these interactions.
Here's ten seconds of data.
You can see how the vibrations get larger and smaller,
depending on how you move.
And we make a mathematical model of those relationships
and program them into a tablet computer
so that when you take the stylus
and go and touch the screen,
that voice coil actuator in the white bracket
plays vibrations to give you the illusion
that you're touching the real surface
just like if you touched, dragged back and forth,
on the real canvas.
We can create very compelling illusions.
We can do this for all kinds of surfaces
and it's really a lot of fun.
We call it haptography,
And I think it has potential benefits
in all sorts of areas like online shopping,
maybe interacive museum exhibits,
where you're not really supposed to touch
the precious artifacts, but you always want to.
The second example that I want to tell you about
comes from a collaboration I have
with Dr. Margrit Maggio at the Penn dental school.
Part of her job is to teach dental students
how to tell where in a patient's mouth
there are cavities.
Of course they look at x-rays,
but a large part of this clinical judgment
comes from what they feel
when they touch your teeth with a dental explorer.
You guys have all had this happen, they go across.
What they're feeling for is if the tooth is really hard,
then it's healthy,
but if it's kind of soft and sticky,
that's a signal that the enamel is starting to decay.
And these types of judgments are hard
for a new dental student to make
because they haven't touched a lot of teeth yet.
And you want them to learn this
before they start practicing on real human patients.
So what we do is we add an accelerometer
on to the dental explorer
and then we record what Dr. Maggio feels
as she touches different extracted teeth.
And we can play it back for you as a video
with a touch track.
So not just a sound track, but also a touch track
that you can feel by holding that repeating tool.
You can feel all the same things
that the dentist felt when they did the recording
and practice making judgments.
So here's a sample one.
Here's a tooth that looks kind of suspicious, right?
It has all those brown stains,
and you might be thinking,
"Oh, we should definitely put a filling in this tooth."
But truly, if you pay attention to how it feels,
all the surfaces of this tooth are hard and healthy
so this patient does not need a filling.
And these are exactly the kind of judgments
that doctors make every day
and I think this technology that we've invented
has a lot of potential for many different things
in medical training because it's really simple
and it does a great job at recreating
what people feel through tools.
I think it could also maybe help make games
more interactive and fun
and more realistic in the sensations that you feel.
The last example I want to tell you about
is again about human movement.
So if any of you have ever learned sports,
you know, how do you get good at something like surfing?
You practice some more and more, right?
Making small corrections,
maybe getting some input from a coach,
learning how to improve your motions.
I think we could use computers
to help make that process more efficient and more fun.
And so here, for example,
if I have six different arm movements
that I want you to learn,
you come into my lab at Penn
and try out our system.
We use a Kinect to measure your motions,
we show graphics on the screen,
and then we also give you touch cues,
haptic feedback, on your arm
delivered by these haptic arm bands,
which have motors inside
and guide you as you move.
So, if we put it together,
as you're trying to track this motion,
if you deviate,
say maybe your arm is a little too high,
we turn on the motors that are right there on the skin
to let you know, hey, you should move down,
almost like a coach gently guiding you
and helping you master these movements more quickly
and make more precise corrections.
We developed this system for use in stroke rehabilitation,
but I think there are a lot of applications,
like maybe dance training
or all sorts of sports training as well.
And so, now you know a little bit
about the field of haptics,
which I think you're going to hear more about in the coming years.
I've shown you three examples,
and I just want to take a moment
to acknowledge all of the great students
who work with me in my lab at Penn
and my collaborators,
they're a great group.
And I also want to thank you for your kind attention.