REU for CHS: Large: Collaborative Research: TextureShop: Tools for the Composition and Display of Virtual Texture

Project: Research project

Project Details


The overarching goal of this research is to enable people to perform the same sorts of operations
with tactile textures that they routinely perform with photographs. Those operations include
“capturing” the texture, building a mathematical representation of it, creating and displaying
synthetic versions that feel very much like the original, enhancing it in various ways (e.g., mak-­‐‑
ing it rougher or more velvety), and ultimately “composing” novel textures that nonetheless feel
realistic and credible.
Intellectual Merit: This work is timely and compelling for a number of reasons. One, scientific
understanding of the physical and neuronal bases of texture perception has advanced considera-­‐‑
bly in recent years. For instance, the relationships between vibrations on the skin (produced
when a finger slides across a surface), spike timing in afferent neurons, and high-­‐‑level percepts
such as recognition of a specific texture, have recently been elucidated. Two, “surface haptic”
technologies for displaying texture to the bare fingertips have also advanced significantly and
can now display complex stimuli across the full bandwidth of tactile acuity. Three, the preva-­‐‑
lence of touch screen interfaces has created a plethora of applications such as children’s ebooks,
interfaces for the blind, games, and automobile control panels, which would be well-­‐‑served by
high quality tactile content. The merit of this research is that it will provide a principled founda-­‐‑
tion for both the creation and manipulation of that content. Contributions will include the devel-­‐‑
opment of a “tactile camera” that is able to capture the relevant frictional and vibratory data from
which realistic textures can be recreated; a novel mathematical representation of the salient as-­‐‑
pects of texture as well as algorithms for synthesizing artificial textures on the basis of that repre-­‐‑
sentation; a suite of techniques for enhancing aspects of texture by direct operation on the math-­‐‑
ematical representation, interpolation between multiple textures, and interaction with audio cues;
and finally a set of tools for composing novel textures including search, texture combination and
scale transformation.
Broader Impacts: When interacting with the physical world, touch is a vitally important sensory
channel. When interacting with the digital world, this is not yet the case. Historically, this situa-­‐‑
tion may have been principally due to inadequate tactile displays, but that limitation is quickly
disappearing. Increasingly, the principal limitation is the lack of tactile content. This research
will achieve broader impacts by empowering the content creator. As a tangible step in this direc-­‐‑
tion, an open source, open hardware project begun under prior NSF support will be continued
and expanded. That project resulted in the distribution of surface haptic devices to about a dozen
different labs, leading to a wide variety of research studies. In this project, a low-­‐‑cost surface
haptic display and a variety of applications and software tools will be distributed to about 50 ear-­‐‑
ly adopters in the research community. Those individuals will be engaged in this research (e.g.,
by helping to “tag” various textures) and will be empowered to carry out their own research. In
addition, workshops will be organized at major human-­‐‑computer interaction conferences to sup-­‐‑
port the growing surface haptics community.
Key words: texture; haptic interface; tactile interface
Effective start/end date7/1/156/30/21


  • National Science Foundation (IIS-1518602)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.