When people think of virtual reality, the assumption is that it can only be experienced through two senses: vision and sound. In the Kettering University Haptics Lab, however, students work within virtual worlds that incorporate touch as well.
“Haptics technology enables computer users to feel or manipulate virtual objects or virtual environments, or remote objects into operation systems,” said Mehrdad Zadeh, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kettering. The technology, which allows a user to ‘touch’ virtual objects using forces, vibrations or movements, has a wide variety of practical and versatile uses in industry, he said.
Kettering’s Haptics course is one of only a handful of similar courses at universities across the country, Zadeh said. The Haptics Lab and haptics course offers Kettering students new ways of researching and interacting with computers. It’s been a big draw among the students, offering Kettering students another unique and valuable research facility on campus.
Zadeh has been researching haptics since January 2002. He did his master’s work in haptics at Concordia University in Montreal and then worked for a company designing haptic-enabled surgical simulators before working on his Ph.D. at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Several industries use haptics-enabled technology. In the auto industry, in-car user interfaces are very important for the safety of the passengers.
“Currently, drivers only use their vision system to acquire information from outside or inside the car,” Zadeh said. “At Kettering, we are working on haptic-enabled in-car user interfaces. Using haptics, we want to reduce the load on other sensory channels like vision.”
Haptics offers practical uses in medicine, too, including robot-assisted surgery devices and surgical simulators. Haptics also has entertainment applications since video gaming software now commonly incorporates motion or touch into controllers.
To read more about Zadeh’s Haptics course, visit www.kettering.edu/visitors/storydetail.jsp?storynum=3124