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I spent the summer of 2011 working with Professor Katherine Kuchenbecker on the modeling and rendering of haptic textures. Haptic textures allow a computer to output vibrations that simulate the roughness of different materials. This is done by moving a magnet back and forth to create vibrations that your skin can feel, much like audio files move speakers back and forth to create audible sounds. The haptic textures essentially fool your sense of touch by recreating the vibrations that your hand would feel in the real situation.
My first task was to create a drawing program on C++. The user would use a stylus to draw on a tablet PC and the stylus would vibrate similarly to how a writing utensil would.
The models are created by measuring the accelerations felt on the tooltip when it moves across the real surface. These accelerations are analyzed and replicated by the magnet. My mentor, Dr. Kuchenbecker, also had the idea of adapting the same equipment and methods to measure and recreate vibrations felt when pressing a button, essentially creating haptic buttons. The result was a ‘Haptic Simon’ game. In the regular game of Simon the computer indicates a pattern of button presses and the user has to repeat it. Haptic Simon uses visual, audio and haptic cues to tell the user the specific button combination.
For the last part of my summer, I implemented new mathematical models that were being developed by a PhD student over the summer. The new method was developed using recorded data on MATLAB, but I had to make sure that it could be performed in real-time on C++. The new, more complex and efficient mathematical models decreased the file size of the haptic textures by 90%. The PhD student’s research was submitted for publication for the Haptics Symposium 2012, and I was very lucky to be included as one of the co-authors of the paper.
Doing research over the summer was a great opportunity to practice what I have learned in my classes and to get a taste of more advanced problems in engineering. Over the summer I learned about signal processing, electronic components, and programming with C++ − all of which I have since applied to my coursework this semester.
Over the summer I also attended several speaker series with the members of the Haptics Lab. It was great to learn more about the research done at Penn and elsewhere. On a more personal level, while working in the lab I met a number of graduate students that have given me advice about future coursework.
Overall, PURM was a great opportunity to get involved with the research community here at Penn. I would like to thank CURF for the opportunity.