ECE Assistant Professor Yon Visell receives an NSF CAREER award for his haptics research

April 9th, 2018

visell at work in the lab
Visell is an advocate for more research into the physical mechanisms of human touch sensing – that can pave the way for new technologies of increasing relevance to modern society from wearables to robots to virtual and augmented reality

We use touch all of the time to interact with the world around us. Yet the sense of touch is far less understood than our other senses, such as vision and hearing. Our hands and brain gather a wealth of information as we interact with objects in our environment, but the ways in which this data is captured are something of a mystery.

“Recent research has shown that even lightly touching an object with a finger excites elastic waves that travel throughout the hand, eliciting responses in the sensory nervous system that evoke the conscious experience of touch,” said Visell, an assistant professor with appointments in UCSB’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in its Media Arts and Technology graduate program.“But the physical processes that are involved are as yet unclear.”

Now, with a National Science Foundation CAREER award, Visell aims to use his expertise in haptics — the science of communicating via touch — to shed light on its wave-like nature, with outcomes that could set the stage for advances in a wide array of fields, from engineering to neuroscience, medicine and education.

We greatly appreciate the support of the National Science Foundation, and in particular of the Cyber Human Systems program, for supporting our research on haptics — an area of growing importance that contains many surprising and enigmatic challenges,” Visell said. “Everyone has a lifetime of experience in interacting with the world via touch, yet our understanding of this important modality remains limited. We are excited to have the opportunity to expand our knowledge of haptics, and to create new engineering systems that make use of it.”

The UCSB Current – "Waves of Touch" (full article)

Visell's COE Profile

Visell's RE Touch Lab