Soft robotics for haptic interactions (TU/e)

In current remote interaction and virtual reality information can be shared visually and auditory, e.g. we could see and hear each other online. In virtual reality we could add avatars and an immersive environment to make the interaction more lively. However, one crucial part is still missing, haptic interactions. We cannot feel remotely and we cannot feel virtual objects. This missing link in the haptic feedback loop is often approached with solutions based on vibrations or force feedback, but there are much more aspects in haptic perception to consider.

We are looking for students that would like to explore the possibility of applying soft or smart materials in haptic interactions.

Example projects:

Emulating thermal properties in haptic interactions
One of the feedback aspects that cannot be reproduced in the current haptic systems because of a lack of appropriate hardware is the temperature and “thermal sensation” of different objects and materials (e.g. metallic objects feel relatively colder on cold days than wooden objects). This information is very important for human perception of materials and thereby the interaction with the (virtual or remote) environment. In this project the student will investigate the potential of various heat-transfer mechanisms and thermal actuators (e.g. phase transitions, convective heat transfer, Joule heating, Peltier elements) to control thermal properties and emulate thermal sensation for (wearable) haptic interaction.

Smart materials for haptics
In the CE&C department smart materials with soft robotic functions are being developed, e.g. materials that can change their surface texture or absorb/release moisture in response to external stimulus (light, electricity, heat). The aim of this project is to explore the possibility of applying these smart materials in haptic interactions.