Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering | Resources for Online Students

Learn about how the sense of touch can convey information in a natural and intuitive way when communicating through a computer.

Realistic and Intuitive Haptic Feedback for Communication in Virtual and Real-World Environments
Heather Culbertson, Postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

Thursday, February 23, 2017
9 a.m.
Santa Catalina Hall (SANCA) 155, Polytechnic campus [map]
Watch this seminar on Adobe Connect


The haptic (touch) sensations felt when interacting with the physical world create a rich and varied impression of objects and their environment. Humans are capable of gathering a significant amount of information through touch with their environment, allowing them to assess object properties and qualities, dexterously handle objects, and communicate social cues and emotions. Humans are spending significantly more time in the digital world, however, and are increasingly interacting with people and objects through a digital medium. Unfortunately, digital interactions remain unsatisfying and limited, representing the human as having only two sensory inputs: visual and auditory.

This talk will focus on the investigation of haptic devices and rendering algorithms to provide humans with touch information when communicating through a computer. Culbertson will present a background on the sense of touch, and illustrate how we can leverage this knowledge in order to design haptic devices and rendering systems that allow the human to communicate through the digital world in a natural and intuitive way. She will highlight contributions she has made in furthering haptic realism in virtual reality through the creation of highly realistic virtual objects. These objects are created by modeling high-frequency acceleration, force, and speed data recorded during physical interactions and displaying the appropriate haptic signals during rendering. Culbertson will then describe advances she have made in novel wearable haptic devices for communicating information to a human using intuitive and natural cues.

About the speaker

Heather Culbertson is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University where she works in the Collaborative Haptics and Robotics in Medicine (CHARM) Lab. Her research focuses on the design and control of haptic devices and rendering systems, human-robot interaction, and virtual reality.

She received her doctorate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) at the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 working in the Haptics Group, part of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. She completed a master’s in MEAM at the University of Pennsylvania in May of 2013, and earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2010.

She is currently serving as the local arrangements co-chair of the IEEE Haptics Symposium. Her awards include a citation for meritorious service as a reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, and the Best Hands-On Demonstration Award at IEEE World Haptics 2013.