I will describe recent work in my lab on haptics, soft electronics and creative applications. Much of our work is motivated by the goal of engineering technologies that are able to reflect the amazing perceptual and motor capabilities of biological systems for touch, including the human hand. This objective turns out to be astoundingly difficult to achieve, due, not least, to our limited understanding of the mechanics underlying touch sensation, i.e., of what it is that the skin, our largest sensory organ, feels when we touch objects in the world. Some of the challenges involved can be traced to the complexity of the mechanical interactions, the high dimensionality of the signals, and the multiple length scales, time scales, and physical regimes involved. Equally significant is the sensitive dependence of what we feel on what we do - that is, the way that touch-elicited mechanical signals depend on the way we move and contact objects. I will describe research that has aimed at addressing these challenges, and will explain how the results can inform the development of new technologies for wearable computing, virtual reality and robotics.
Yon Visell is Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Media Arts and Technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he directs the RE Touch Lab, part of the California Nanosystems Institute. His research focuses on haptic engineering, robotics, and the mechanics and neuroscience of touch, and is motivated by creative applications in haptic human-computer interaction, sensorimotor augmentation, and interaction in virtual reality. Assistant Professor (2013-2015) in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Drexel University. Post-Doctoral Fellow (2011-2012) at the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics, Université Pierre et Marie Curie Paris 06. PhD degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University's Center for Intelligent Machines (2011). MA and BA degrees in Physics (Univ. Texas-Austin and Wesleyan Univ.). He spent more than 5 years in industrial R&D at high technology firms, including Ableton, where he contributed to music software that is now used by artists worldwide, from Pete Townshend to Vijay Iyer and Nine Inch Nails, served as research scientist (speech technology) at Vocal Point (now Nuance), and sonar researcher at ARL Austin. Von Visell undertook interactive art and design research at FoAM, Belgium, at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, and at Zero-Th, Croatia, an art and architecture organization that he co-founded in 2005. Author of more than 60 peer reviewed articles, and editor of two books on interaction in virtual reality, including (with F. Steinicke, A. Lécuyer, and J. Campos) "Human Walking in Virtual Environments: Perception, Technology, and Applications", Springer Verlag, Series in Engineering, 2013. His work has received several awards, including a Google Faculty Research Award, and Best Paper awards at the 2010 and 2016 IEEE Haptics Symposium. His electronic music and artworks have exhibited at international venues including SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies, Ircam/Centre Pompidou, Design Biennale St. Etienne, Ars Electronica, INC Miami, FoAM Brussels, Phaeno Science Center, the city of Ivrea, Italy, the city of Kortrijk, Belgium, and elsewhere.