Research

This page describes some of our ongoing research projects. Publicly available data and software from this work are available at our Resources page

Design and Control of Haptic Systems for Virtual Environments and Teleoperation

Haptics is the study of touch sensing, wherein humans largely utilize kinesthetic (force/position) and cutaneous (tactile) receptors for perception and manipulation. Our lab develops specialized robotic devices and their corresponding control, known as haptic interfaces, that allow human operators to experience the sense of touch in remote (teleoperated) or simulated (virtual) environments. We explore the use of handheld and wearable fingertip devices in virtual environments, try to understand the interactions between vision and touch, and enable portable devices to generate compelling touch interactions. We also incorporate machine learning techniques to understand how humans and haptic devices can adapt to each other during use. 

Researchers:

Jake Suchoski, Julie Walker, Mike Salvato

Wearable Haptic Interfaces and Perception

We are interested in understanding what information can be conveyed through the sense of touch from body-mounted devices. For example, directional guidance information, social interactions between distant individuals, and environmental cues for the visually impaired could all be provided to users through wearable haptic interfaces. We study the fundamental perceptive capabilities of humans, and use this to design novel skin-deformation, vibrotactile, or soft haptic devices that can be worn on the body.

Researchers:

Sophia Williams, Cara Nunez, Mike Salvato, Kyle Tadao Yoshida

Robot-Assisted Percutaneous Interventions


Percutaneous interventions involve the insertion of very thin, often flexible, tools through the skin to reach a target either within a solid organ or in the vasculature. Unpredictable tool-tissue interactions, poor imaging, and inherent challenges in the control of these flexible tools make manual percutaneous interventions difficult. Our work aims to improve the success of these procedures through the development of highly maneuverable steerable needles and novel robotic systems to enable more accurate targeting, more intuitive control methods, and increased tool accessibility and visibility with standard and safe medical imaging (ultrasound).

Researchers: Giada Gerboni

Human Motor Performance and Adaptation in Robot-Assisted Surgery

We study how surgical teleoperator characteristics and level of user expertise change human motor performance, adaptation, and learning, for the purpose of developing scientifically motivated guidelines for robot design, control, and training methods. We also explore the ways force information and haptic guidance can affect surgeon performance and training.

Researchers:

Zonghe Chua

Soft Robotics

Soft robotics focuses on robots that create their motion through continuous deformation. These robots can interact safely with their environment with less sophisticated control and use their deformation for novel forms of locomotion and manipulation. We're interested in the design, modeling, and control of new soft robots and soft actuators with possible applications in haptic interfaces, inspection, search and rescue, human-assistive robots, and medical interventions.

Researchers:

Margaret Koehler, Laura Blumenschein, Ming Luo, Margaret Coad, Nathan Usevitch, Brian Do, Nathaniel Agharese

Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Robotics

Robotics and assistive devices can augment or aid movement in healthy people or individuals with physical or neurological impairments. We design and study the use of exoskeletons and wearable assistive devices for improving human movement. Additionally, we investigate rehabilitation therapy for neurological disorders such as stroke. Rehabilitation therapy may restore lost strength, muscle coordination, and range of motion. Compared to traditional therapy, robot-aided intervention enables more frequent and intensive therapy, improves diagnostic measures, and allows movement with varying degrees of autonomy. Using robotics, our aim is to study movements and sensory motor control, characterize motor learning in virtual environments, and develop patient-specific control strategies for rehabilitation.

Researchers:

Sean Sketch, Cara Welker, Cole Simpson, Darrel Deo

Educational Haptics

A major benefit of educational robotics is its hands-on nature. This makes the learning process more compelling for most students, and underscores the connection between science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) theory and physical reality. Educational haptics takes this premise a step further: haptic devices that provide force and tactile feedback to the student are programmed to generate physical interactions that improve student intuition for STEM subjects. Haptic devices also emphasize the need for interdisciplinary robotics education, and can inspire even very young students to enter STEM fields. We have used a variety of methods to incorporate haptic devices and simulations into undergraduate, graduate, and grade school curricula.

Researchers:

Melisa Orta