What is haptics?
To be able to interact with the physical world or virtual environment, there is the need of form of feedback which is called haptic feedback. Haptics involves a wide range of feedback from tactile senses up to proprioceptive senses using tactile, hybrid or kinesthetic devices. In this research area, we want to deepen our understanding of how the human makes use if the sense of touch and how to improve human interaction with robotic instruments.
Research Focus at the CoRe Haptics Lab
The CoRe Haptics Lab focuses on ideas of how to implement, design and evaluate novel haptic systems to enhance the human perception in areas of Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) (see figure below) and Human Robot Interaction (HRI). We explore analytic and experimental approaches inspired by human bahaviour and embed obtained control strategies into our haptic devices.
Haptics in MIS
One part of our research focuses on soft tissue examination for medical applications, such as minimally invasive surgery (MIS), on the measurement of soft tissue mechanical and tactile properties, the analysis of methods and techniques, which are making the process feasible for real life applications. Tactile sensing is eliminated during MIS and its presence would increase an accuracy and quality of the surgery, by the means of evaluating soft tissue stiffness and detecting abnormalities, as well as minimising damage to internal organs using force control during manipulations (grasping, section etc.). The main aspects of research include the understanding of probing behaviour during soft tissue examination and the creation of biologically inspired probing device able to measure soft tissue parameters over continuous path.
Sense of touch is crucial for surgeons to effectively identify tumours and boundaries, and, thus to achieve successful cancer resections. To overcome the touch information loss which occurs during robotic-assisted surgical procedures, researchers have proposed methods capable of acquiring partial haptic feedback and mimicking the physical interaction which takes place between surgical tools and human tissue during palpation. Dr Min Li proposes and evaluates haptic palpation systems in her dissertation (see video below) and suggests the combination of different feedback methods for tumour identification in medical training and robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery using tissue models based on rolling indentation.
Novel pseudo-haptic tissue stiffness simulation methods, multi-fingered haptic interfaces, and hybrid feedback methods are proposed and evaluated.
Haptics in HRI
Another part of our research focusses on understanding how human guiders learn adaptive controllers to generate haptic signals to blindfolded followers via hard/soft reins. The insights will be applied to develop a robot that could guide firefighters in a low visibility environment (REINS).