skip to main content

Title: Wearable System for Generating Mediated Social Touch through Force Mapping
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, social distancing has been a necessary and effective means of reducing disease through decreased close human contact. However, there has been a corresponding increase in touch starvation due to limited physical contact. Our research seeks to create a solution for allowing individuals to safely communicate through touch over a distance. Our system consists of wearable sensors to measure the social touch gesture, which is then processed and sent to an array of voice coils in an actuator device.
; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
IEEE World Haptics Conference Hands-On Demonstrations
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Touch as a modality in social communication has been getting more attention with recent developments in wearable technology and an increase in awareness of how limited physical contact can lead to touch starvation and feelings of depression. Although several mediated touch methods have been developed for conveying emotional support, the transfer of emotion through mediated touch has not been widely studied. This work addresses this need by exploring emotional communication through a novel wearable haptic system. The system records physical touch patterns through an array of force sensors, processes the recordings using novel gesture-based algorithms to create actuator control signals, and generates mediated social touch through an array of voice coil actuators. We conducted a human subject study ( N = 20) to understand the perception and emotional components of this mediated social touch for common social touch gestures, including poking, patting, massaging, squeezing, and stroking. Our results show that the speed of the virtual gesture significantly alters the participants' ratings of valence, arousal, realism, and comfort of these gestures with increased speed producing negative emotions and decreased realism. The findings from the study will allow us to better recognize generic patterns from human mediated touch perception and determine howmore »mediated social touch can be used to convey emotion. Our system design, signal processing methods, and results can provide guidance in future mediated social touch design.« less
  2. Traditional fingerprint authentication requires the acquisition of data through touch-based specialized sensors. However, due to many hygienic concerns including the global spread of the COVID virus through contact with a surface has led to an increased interest in contactless fingerprint image acquisition methods. Matching fingerprints acquired using contactless imaging against contact-based images brings up the problem of performing cross modal fingerprint matching for identity verification. In this paper, we propose a cost-effective, highly accurate and secure end-to-end contactless fingerprint recognition solution. The proposed framework first segments the finger region from an image scan of the hand using a mobile phone camera. For this purpose, we developed a cross-platform mobile application for fingerprint enrollment, verification, and authentication keeping security, robustness, and accessibility in mind. The segmented finger images go through fingerprint enhancement to highlight discriminative ridge-based features. A novel deep convolutional network is proposed to learn a representation from the enhanced images based on the optimization of various losses. The proposed algorithms for each stage are evaluated on multiple publicly available contactless databases. Our matching accuracy and the associated security employed in the system establishes the strength of the proposed solution framework.
  3. Abstract Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) the causal agent for COVID-19, is a communicable disease spread through close contact. It is known to disproportionately impact certain communities due to both biological susceptibility and inequitable exposure. In this study, we investigate the most important health, social, and environmental factors impacting the early phases (before July, 2020) of per capita COVID-19 transmission and per capita all-cause mortality in US counties. We aggregate county-level physical and mental health, environmental pollution, access to health care, demographic characteristics, vulnerable population scores, and other epidemiological data to create a large feature set to analyze per capita COVID-19 outcomes. Because of the high-dimensionality, multicollinearity, and unknown interactions of the data, we use ensemble machine learning and marginal prediction methods to identify the most salient factors associated with several COVID-19 outbreak measure. Our variable importance results show that measures of ethnicity, public transportation and preventable diseases are the strongest predictors for both per capita COVID-19 incidence and mortality. Specifically, the CDC measures for minority populations, CDC measures for limited English, and proportion of Black- and/or African-American individuals in a county were the most important features for per capita COVID-19 cases within a month after the pandemicmore »started in a county and also at the latest date examined. For per capita all-cause mortality at day 100 and total to date, we find that public transportation use and proportion of Black- and/or African-American individuals in a county are the strongest predictors. The methods predict that, keeping all other factors fixed, a 10% increase in public transportation use, all other factors remaining fixed at the observed values, is associated with increases mortality at day 100 of 2012 individuals (95% CI [1972, 2356]) and likewise a 10% increase in the proportion of Black- and/or African-American individuals in a county is associated with increases total deaths at end of study of 2067 (95% CI [1189, 2654]). Using data until the end of study, the same metric suggests ethnicity has double the association as the next most important factors, which are location, disease prevalence, and transit factors. Our findings shed light on societal patterns that have been reported and experienced in the U.S. by using robust methods to understand the features most responsible for transmission and sectors of society most vulnerable to infection and mortality. In particular, our results provide evidence of the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on minority populations. Our results suggest that mitigation measures, including how vaccines are distributed, could have the greatest impact if they are given with priority to the highest risk communities.« less
  4. Madden, John D. ; Anderson, Iain A. ; Shea, Herbert R. (Ed.)
    Ras Labs makes Synthetic Muscle™, which is a class of electroactive polymer (EAP) based materials and actuators that sense pressure (gentle touch to high impact), controllably contract and expand at low voltage (1.5 V to 50 V, including use of batteries), and attenuate force. We are in the robotics era, but robots do have their challenges. Currently, robotic sensing is mainly visual, which is useful up until the point of contact. To understand how an object is being gripped, tactile feedback is needed. For handling fragile objects, if the grip is too tight, breakage occurs, and if the grip is too loose, the object will slip out of the grasp, also leading to breakage. Rigid robotic grippers using a visual feedback loop can struggle to determine the exact point and quality of contact. Robotic grippers can also get a stuttering effect in the visual feedback loop. By using soft Synthetic Muscle™ based EAP pads as the sensors, immediate feedback was generated at the first point of contact. Because these pads provided a soft, compliant interface, the first point of contact did not apply excessive force, allowing the force applied to the object to be controlled. The EAP sensor could alsomore »detect a change in pressure location on its surface, making it possible to detect and prevent slippage by then adjusting the grip strength. In other words, directional glide provided feedback for the presence of possible slippage to then be able to control a slightly tighter grip, without stutter, due to both the feedback and the soft gentleness of the fingertip-like EAP pads themselves. The soft nature of the EAP fingertip pad also naturally held the gripped object, improving the gripping quality over rigid grippers without an increase in applied force. Analogous to finger-like tactile touch, the EAPs with appropriate coatings and electronics were positioned as pressure sensors in the fingertip or end effector regions of robotic grippers. This development of using Synthetic Muscle™ based EAPs as soft sensors provided for sensors that feel like the pads of human fingertips. Basic pressure position and magnitude tests have been successful, with pressure sensitivity down to 0.05 N. Most automation and robots are very strong, very fast, and usually need to be partitioned away from humans for safety reasons. For many repetitive tasks that humans do with delicate or fragile objects, it would be beneficial to use robotics; whether it is for agriculture, medical surgery, therapeutic or personal care, or in extreme environments where humans cannot enter, including with contagions that have no cure. Synthetic Muscle™ was also retrofitted as actuator systems into off-the-shelf robotic grippers and is being considered in novel biomimetic gripper designs, operating at low voltages (less than 50 V). This offers biomimetic movement by contracting like human muscles, but also exceeds natural biological capabilities by expanding under reversed electric polarity. Human grasp is gentle yet firm, with tactile touch feedback. In conjunction with shape-morphing abilities, these EAPs also are being explored to intrinsically sense pressure due to the correlation between mechanical force applied to the EAP and its electronic signature. The robotic field is experiencing phenomenal growth in this fourth phase of the industrial revolution, the robotics era. The combination of Ras Labs’ EAP shape-morphing and sensing features promises the potential for robotic grippers with human hand-like control and tactile sensing. This work is expected to advance both robotics and prosthetics, particularly for collaborative robotics to allow humans and robots to intuitively work safely and effectively together.« less
  5. This paper proposes and evaluates the use of image classification for detailed, full-body human-robot tactile interaction. A camera positioned below a translucent robot skin captures shadows generated from human touch and infers social gestures from the captured images. This approach enables rich tactile interaction with robots without the need for the sensor arrays used in traditional social robot tactile skins. It also supports the use of touch interaction with non-rigid robots, achieves high-resolution sensing for robots with different sizes and shape of surfaces, and removes the requirement of direct contact with the robot. We demonstrate the idea with an inflatable robot and a standing-alone testing device, an algorithm for recognizing touch gestures from shadows that uses Densely Connected Convolutional Networks, and an algorithm for tracking positions of touch and hovering shadows. Our experiments show that the system can distinguish between six touch gestures under three lighting conditions with 87.5 - 96.0% accuracy, depending on the lighting, and can accurately track touch positions as well as infer motion activities in realistic interaction conditions. Additional applications for this method include interactive screens on inflatable robots and privacy-maintaining robots for the home.