Vibrotactile feedback is frequency used for notifications and alerts in portable devices such as phones and now smart watches and fitness trackers, but the set of possible notifications is limited by the nature of the eccentric motors so often used to deliver such cues. In recent years, my group has been shifting to wearable haptic systems that provide multiple haptic modalities of feedback to the user, including vibration, skin stretch, pressure, and kinesthetic feedback, all packaged in bands that can be worn on the arm. We are particularly interested in applications where the provision of such feedback has a measurable impact on human performance. This talk will focus on recent work employing multi-sensory haptics that enable large cue sets to be encoded as distinct haptic cues. We have used this approach to encode phonemes and evaluated human performance at phoneme and word recognition when participants were presented with haptic cues in succession. In our approach, phonemes, or units of sound, are encoded as haptic cues consisting of vibration, radial squeeze, and lateral skin stretch components. Our results show promise for the use of multi-sensory haptics for haptic communication, demonstrating high word recognition performance with a small, wearable device.
Marcia O’Malley is the Thomas Michael Panos Family Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University where she directs the MAHI (Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces) Lab. She is also the Director of Rehabilitation Engineering at TIRR-Memorial Hermann Hospital. Her research addresses issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems, with a focus on training and rehabilitation in virtual environments. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She serves as Associate Editor in Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, and as senior editor for both the ASME/IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics and for the ACM Transactions on Human Robot Interaction.