Toward quantifying the physical cues and dimensions that underlie our haptic perception of soft materials

Half-day workshop at 2019 IEEE World Haptics Conference

Tokyo, Japan - July 9th, 2019

We interact with soft objects on a daily basis, for example, in touching the arm of a friend to offer comfort or judging the ripeness of fruit. In more specialized environments, physicians may seek to distinguish healthy and unhealthy tissue by palpation. To design devices that replicate naturalistic interactions of this sort, research is needed to tease apart the physical cues that convey an object’s mechanical properties. In particular, we need to understand the number of dimensions, their transformations from physical to perceptual space, and whether they are perceptually integral or separable. Indeed, one major task itself is to define which dimensions underlie what is commonly called softness. Soft might refer to an object’s compliance, and also its viscoelasticity, viscosity, and other associated features such as fuzziness and grittiness. Judgments are also likely dependent on one’s previous experiences, the context of the current experience, and whether the object is actively manipulated or passively contacted. This workshop will cover state of the art in this very important field of haptics though a series of talks by experts. It will also review prior work including foundational psychophysical and neurophysiological studies. The talks will touch upon topics tied to perception, contact interaction, active exploration, cognition and memory, and how findings from such studies form the basis for the design of current and future devices.


09:00 - 09:25 Lynette Jones (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) – What do psychophysical studies tell us about the perception of stiffness and viscosity?

09:25 - 09:50 Femke van Beek (Facebook Reality Labs, USA) - The contribution of force, movement, stiffness and damping to hardness perception

09:50 - 10:15 Gregory Gerling (University of Virginia, USA) – Cutaneous contact and proprioceptive joint cues for efficient discrimination of compliant objects

10:15 - 10:40 Cagatay Basdogan (Koc University, Turkey) - Psychorheology of viscoelasticity

10:40 - 11:00 Break

11:00 - 11:25 Roberta Klatzky (Carnegie Mellon University, USA) – Intensive vs. hybrid material dimensions, or why roughness is not stiffness

11:25 - 11:50 Knut Drewing (Giessen University, Germany) – Different dimensions of softness and their associated exploratory procedures

11:50 - 12:15 Hong Z. Tan (Purdue University, USA) and Jaeyoung Park (Korean Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea) – Investigation of mechanical and perceptual cues for compliance and hardness perception


Gregory Gerling (University of Virginia, USA)

Professor Gregory GERLING has been a member of the faculty at the School of Engineering and Applied Science since 2005. Before joining U.Va., he earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa. He currently serves as co-chair of the IEEE Haptics Symposium in 2018 and 2020, and associate editor in chief of the IEEE World Haptics Conference in 2017 and 2019. His research interests are related to the fields of haptics, computational neuroscience, human factors and ergonomics, biomechanics, and human–machine interaction. His primary domain is that surrounding human health. His group builds and analyzes computational models using solid mechanics, differential equations and statistical techniques, designs and prototypes devices using electronics, software and silicone-elastomers, and conducts psychophysical experiments. He has a substantial background in the skin and receptor physiology related to touch sensation – specifically mechanosensitive peripheral afferents. At present, his work is investigating cutaneous and proprioceptive cues that convey an object’s softness, as well as social and emotional touch. This work is done in close collaboration with neuroscientists, in human and mouse models. A thorough understanding of tactile cues in early, peripheral stages is key to deciphering the whole perceptual chain, as well as engineering sensors and human-machine interfaces.

Cagatay Basdogan (Koc University, Turkey)

Professor Cagatay BASDOGAN is a member of faculty in College of Engineering at Koc University since 2002. Before joining to Koc University, he was a senior member of technical staff at Information and Computer Science Division of NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 1999 to 2002. At JPL, he worked on 3D reconstruction of Martian models from stereo images captured by a rover and their haptic visualization on Earth. He moved to JPL from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was a research scientist and principal investigator at MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics and a member of the MIT Touch Lab from 1996 to 1999. At MIT, he was involved in the development of algorithms that enable a user to touch and feel virtual objects through a haptic device. He received his Ph.D. degree from Southern Methodist University in 1994 and worked on medical simulation and robotics for Musculographics Inc. at Northwestern University Research Park for two years before moving to MIT. Prof. Basdogan is currently the associate editor in chief (AEiC) of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics and serves on the editorial boards of IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Worlds (MIT Press), and Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds (Wiley) journals. In addition to serving on the program and organizational committees of several conferences, he also chaired the IEEE World Haptics Conference in 2011.


Lynette Jones (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Dr. Lynette JONES is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has contributed extensively to the area of haptics, tactile and thermal displays, and sensorimotor control of the hand. Her research group at MIT has built a number of tactile and thermal displays that have been used in research conducted by both academic and industrial organizations. Dr. Jones has served on numerous national committees including the Committee on Space Biology and Medicine of the National Research Council. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics and Associate Editor of Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. She has served as Program Chair for the IEEE Haptics Symposium and as Editor-in-Chief of the conference editorial board for the World Haptics Conference. She is a Fellow of the IEEE.

Femke van Beek (Facebook Reality Labs, USA)

Dr. Femke VAN BEEK is a postdoctoral reseacher with Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, WA. She received the BSc and MSc degree in Sensory Biology from Wageningen University, The Netherlands. She obtained the PhD degree in haptic perception from the Department of Behavioural and Movement Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Astrid Kappers. In her research, she uses psychophysical measures and movement data to understand haptic principles, in order to provide guidelines for engineers of haptic devices. In her current work, she focusses on haptics in multisensory scenarios to understand how to create compelling interactions in AR and VR. She received the EHS Best Thesis Award 2016.

Knut Drewing (Giessen University, Germany)

Professor Knut DREWING is an associate professor of experimental psychology in the Department of Psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, Germany. He has received a diploma in Psychology from Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, the PhD degree in psychology from Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, and the postdoctoral lecture qualification (habilitation) in psychology from Justus-Liebig-University. Before joining Giessen University, Drewing worked in the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychological Research in Munich and the Max-Plack-Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen. His research investigates haptic perception, multisensory integration and sensorimotor timing. In the field of haptics his interests include the perception of material properties (e.g., softness, roughness), the interplay of exploratory movement with the integration of sensory information and affective aspects of active touch. Drewing has received the Otto-Hahn medal from the Max-Planck-Society. He has served as an associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, as a consulting editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, and in the program committees of several haptic conferences.

Roberta Klatzky (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Professor Roberta KLATZKY is the Charles J. Queenan Jr. Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, where she is also on the faculty of the the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. She received a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Stanford University. She is the author of over 300 articles and chapters, and she has authored or edited 7 books. Her research investigates perception, spatial thinking and action from the perspective of multiple modalities, sensory and symbolic, in real and virtual environments. Klatzky's basic research has been applied to tele-manipulation, image-guided surgery, navigation aids for the blind, and neural rehabilitation. Klatzky is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She was elected to the honorary organization, the Society of Experimental Psychologists. For her work on perception and action, she received an Alexander von Humboldt Research Award and the Kurt Koffka Medaille from Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Germany. Her professional service includes governance roles in several societies and membership on the National Academy of Science’s Committees on International Psychology, Human Factors, Reducing Counterfeiting Using Behavioral Sciences, and Techniques for Enhancing Human Performance. She has served on research review panels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the European Commission. She has provided service to many editorial boards.

Hong Tan (Purdue University, USA)

Professor Hong TAN is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering at Purdue University, with courtesy appointments in the School of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Psychological Sciences. She directs the Haptic Interface Research Lab that investigates the science and technology of displaying information through the sense of touch, taking a perception-based approach to solving engineering problems. Tan received her Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and earned her Master and Doctorate degrees, both in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was a Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab before joining the faculty at Purdue University in 1998. Tan has held a McDonnell Visiting Fellowship at Oxford University, a Visiting Associate Professorship in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University, a Guest Researcher position in the Institute of Life Science and Technology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a Senior Researcher and Research Manager position at Microsoft Research Asia, and a Professorship at Beijing Normal University Faculty of Psychology. She was a recipient of the prestigious US National Science Foundation CAREER award and a Chinese National Natural Science Fund’s Distinguished (Overseas) Young Scholar. In addition to serving on numerous program committees, Tan was a co-organizer of the Haptics Symposium from 2003 to 2005, served as the founding chair of the IEEE Technical Committee on Haptics from 2006-2008, and co-chaired the World Haptics Conference in 2015. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the World Haptics Conference Editorial Board from 2012-2015. Tan became an IEEE Fellow in 2017.

Jaeyoung Park (Korean Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea)

Dr. Jaeyoung PARK is a Senior Research Scientist in the Robotics and Media Institute at Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seoul, Korea. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN under the supervision of Prof. Hong Z. Tan. His research interests include haptic perception of the virtual environment and the design of the wearable haptic interface. Currently, his research focus is on developing an effective telepresence robotic system with the aid of haptic interface technology. He received the Best Poster Award of IEEE World Haptic Conference 2011.