Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT, London team reports first transatlantic touch

29.10.2002


Potential applications abound



In a milestone that conjures up the refrain to a Paul McCartney song, researchers at MIT and University College London have linked "hands across the water" in the first transatlantic touch, literally "feeling" each other’s manipulations of a small box on a computer screen.

Potential applications abound. "In addition to sound and vision, virtual reality programs could include touch as well," said Mandayam A. Srinivasan, director of MIT’s Touch Lab and leader of the MIT team.


Imagine haptic (touch) feedback for a surgeon practicing telemedicine. What about artists from around the world collaborating on a virtual sculpture? They could create different forms, colors, sounds and textures accessible over the Internet. Students in a physics class might "feel" the forces within the nucleus of an atom. "That application could also be sent across a very widespread network," Srinivasan said.

"We really don’t know all of the potential applications," he concluded. "Just like Bell didn’t anticipate all of the applications for the telephone."

The feat was first accomplished on May 23 of this year. The researchers plan to demonstrate it anew at an Internet2 conference Oct. 28-29 at the University of Southern California. That two-part demo will transmit touch signals between California and MIT, and between California and University College London (UCL).

"As far as we know, this is the first time that touch signals have been transmitted over long distances, particularly across the Atlantic," said Srinivasan, who holds appointments in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 1998, his group transmitted touch signals between two rooms at MIT, allowing two users to perform a cooperative manipulation task in a shared virtual environment.

"Touch is the most difficult aspect of virtual environments to simulate, but we have shown in our previous work with MIT that the effort is worth-while. Now we are extending the benefits of touch feedback to long distance interaction," said Mel Slater, Professor of Virtual Environments in UCL’s Computer Science Department and Srinivasan’s UCL counterpart.

Srinivasan and Slater’s colleagues on the work are former MIT graduate student Boon K. Tay; current MIT graduate student Jung Kim of mechanical engineering; and J. Jordan, J. Mortensen and M. Oliveira at UCL.

All are authors of a paper describing an experiment on the work that involved 20 volunteers. That experiment showed that people completing a collaborative long-distance computer task that included the sense of touch felt a significantly greater sense of having a partner than those without access to the touch interface. The paper was presented Oct. 9 in Porto, Portugal at PRESENCE 2002: The 5th Annual International Workshop on Presence.

HOW IT WORKS

The demonstration of long-distance touch involves a computer and a small robotic arm that takes the place of a mouse. A user can manipulate the arm by clasping its end, which resembles a thick stylus. The overall system creates the sensation of touch by exerting a precisely controlled force on the user’s fingers. The arm, known as the PHANToM, was invented by others at MIT in the early 1990s and is available commercially through SensAble Technologies. The current researchers modified the PHANToM software for the transatlantic application.

On the computer screen, each user sees a three-dimensional room. Within that room are a black box and two tiny square pointers that show the users where they are in the room. They then use the robotic arms to collaboratively lift the box.

That’s where the touch comes in. As a user at MIT moves the arm--and therefore the pointer--to touch the box, he can "feel" the box, which has the texture of hard rubber. The user in London does the same thing. Together they attempt to pick up the box--one applying force from the left, the other from the right--and hold it as long as possible. All the while, each user can feel the other’s manipulations of the box.

An MIT News Office writer participated in a recent demonstration. The force from the participant in London felt so real that the writer jumped backward.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Jung Kim, the MIT researcher who participated in the May demonstration, describes the experience as "amazing. The first touch from the other side of the world!"

There are still technical problems that must be solved, however, before everyday applications will become available. Chief among them is the long time delay, due to Internet traffic, between when one user "touches" the on-screen box and when the second user feels the resulting force. "Each user must do the task very slowly or the synchronization is lost," Srinivasan said. In that circumstance, the box vibrates both visually and to the touch, making the task much more difficult.

Srinivasan is confident, however, that the time delay can be reduced. "Even in our normal touch, there’s a time delay between when you touch something and when those signals arrive in your brain," he said. "So in a sense, the brain is teleoperating through the hand."

A one-way trip from hand to brain takes about 30 milliseconds; that same trip from MIT to London takes 150-200 milliseconds, depending on network traffic. "If the Internet time delays are reduced to values less than the time delay between the brain and hand, I would expect that the Internet task would feel very natural," Srinivasan said.

Although improving network speeds is the researchers’ main hurdle, they also hope to improve the robotic arm and its capabilities, as well as the algorithms that allow the user to "feel" via computer.

The MIT researchers supplied the haptics expertise for the work; the UCL team covered software development and network issues. The two groups began their collaboration in 1998 when Slater was at MIT on sabbatical.

Elizabeth Thomson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/www/

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>