Brown Computer Graphics Group Brown Computer Graphics Group

Haptic User Interfaces

view of 3d sketching system View of the phantom in its tilted orientation for 2D GUI
Haptic Sketching in 3D
The PHANToM set up for 2D GUIs

Project Overview

Interacting with a computer can be hard. In the real world, people rely on their sense of touch to a great extent (anyone who has had novacaine or another topical anaesthetic is familiar with this!), and we therefore expect that adding haptics (the sense of touch) could help users interacting with the virtual world on the computer. Current computer user interfaces in fact already have haptics, in the sense that there is tactile and proprioceptive feedback involved in using mice and keyboards; this feedback is useful, but quite impoverished in the context of the virtual world that the user interfaces is trying to provide. The aim of this project, therefore, is to add true feel to the "look and feel" of user interfaces. In particular, we are more interested in developing an understanding of what to simulate haptically in an interface to achieve an end than we are in how exactly to simulate something. We expect that developing an understanding of this fledgling field will involve several mechanisms, including exploring various techniques, trying to come up with unifying theories, and performing user studies to test techniques and theories.

There are two main subprojects within this overall project: 2D user interfaces and 3D user interfaces. Both projects use the PHANToM, made by SensAble Technologies, to provide force feedback, but differ in the user interface application areas. The 2D project is concerned with adding force-feedback to 2D user interfaces such as existing WIMP (windows-icons-menus-pointers) interfaces, but also with possibly changing the graphical part of the user interface to better take advantage of the added haptic feedback. The 3D project is currently focused on testing 3D haptic widgets in a polygonal modelling system testbed loosely based on the ideas from the Sketch project. In both systems we have attempted to abstract principles for how haptic feedback may be used in user interfaces.


Tim Miller
Robert Zeleznik



 SensAble Technologies, makers of the PHANToM.


Tim Miller
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