Our research focuses on the design of haptic interfaces, robotics and sensing systems to enable and augment human users, following a design philosophy that keeps the user in mind from the beginning and aims to build devices that are not just functional, but also easy to interact with.
Haptics for Healthcare and Rehabilitation
Haptics is the science of touch. It is a multidisciplinary field that covers the understanding of how the sense of touch works, but also the design of interfaces that can deliver compelling sensations for a variety of goals. One of the areas of research in the h-CHAR Lab focuses on trying to use haptic interfaces to restore sensation and help recovering motor function where it is missing, for example in upper limb prosthetic users or stroke patients.
Wearable Sensing for Measurement of Kinematics and Forces
Having a good understanding of how we interact physically with the environment can be important for a variety of applications. For example, it can be used to inform diagnosis in medical practice (by comparing measurements from patients with baseline measurements), but it can also be used in the design of robots (e.g., artificial hands often try to mimic behavior observed in human hands) or to guide operation of robots for remote guidance. Part of our research focuses on improving the technology available for sensing of human actions, for what concerns both kinematics and force measurements.
User-centered Haptics and Human-Robot Interaction
Research in Haptics and Human-Robot interaction puts a lot of attention on validating devices from a quantitative and objective point of view, for what concerns both technical (i.e., are the measurements read and forces provided accurate) and perceptual (does the user perceive the stimulus that is being provided correctly?) validation. This aspect is extremely important, but it does not paint the whole picture. When it comes to interaction with a robot, a haptic device, or really any kind of device, there is another less objective, less quantifiable but still very important aspect to consider: how does the user feel about the device that they are using? Do they feel in control of the task they are performing? Are they comfortable with it? If the device was given to them to take home, would they actually use it in their daily lives or would they store it a drawer and forget about its existence? Part of our research focuses on the challenging task of trying to analyze and quantify this aspect, for as much as it is possible.