Our work on tactile displays involves research on characterizing the properties of different actuators used in displays, building and testing different types of tactile displays, evaluating the mechanical properties of skin so as to quantify its responses to vibration and psychophysical studies in which we measure perceptual responses to mechanical stimulation of the skin. We have built displays that can be mounted on the hand, arm, leg or torso and shown that by varying the spatial and temporal properties of vibrotactile stimulation we can create tactile communication systems.
In our research on thermal displays we have developed thermal models that characterize the interaction between the hand and an object and assessed the validity of the models using both physiological and psychophysical data. We have also designed and built displays to study whether thermal cues can be used to encode abstract information, such as changes in pressure or distance and to study multisensory processing.
The mechanical properties of the skin can have a profound influence on the signals detected by mechanoreceptors in the skin. For example, the glabrous skin on the palm is much stiffer than the hairy skin on the forearm and so the actual frequency of vibration of a motor on the skin will differ substantially between the two sites. Our research program aims to understand how the properties of skin influence its response to thermal and tactile stimulation. We have built a number of skin mechanical testing systems and developed associated analytic tools for this purpose.