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Title: Information acquisition in physical human-machine interaction
Author: Ogrinc, Matjaž
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 694X
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2018
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Exploration is an active, closed loop process, where actions are coordinated to maximise sensory information gain through perception. Exploratory actions provide complementary and redundant sensory information, which our brain efficiently combines to reduce the uncertainty about the natural environment. As humans increasingly interact with machines, there is a growing need for human-machine interfaces to support natural interactions and efficient information display. The integration of sensory cues allows humans to resolve ambiguities in everyday natural interactions. Here, this mechanism is exploited to enhance information transfer of abstract tactile cues. This thesis develops a feedback method based on vibrotactile apparent motion, where an array of stimulators is excited in a particular spatio-temporal pattern to induce an illusion of motion across the skin. In the proposed approach, the speed of motion is coupled with additional cues to ease the discrimination between similar speeds. The increased throughput of information promises an efficient and convenient way for substitution of auditory or visual navigation cues. Sensory loss and dysfunctions, and cognitive disorders, such as blindness, tactile hypersensitivity and autism, often severely constrain one's ability to function. Assistive technology can greatly improve their life, such as in the case of tactile sensory substitution devices for visually and hearing impaired. However, as sensory impairments sometimes lead to cognitive dysfunctions, it is crucial to consider these relationships when designing assistive devices. Here, a case study investigated the use of vibrotactile cues to communicate with a deafblind autistic individual during equestrian therapy. The approach was validated by evaluating the individual's sensory perception and motor behaviour. Human ability to acquire and act upon sensory information trough touch is possible thanks to simultaneous control of arm motion, force and impedance. This capability remains absent in human machine interactions, such as in the case of VR and telerobotics, due to the complexity of arm impedance estimation. A novel approach is demonstrated here where impedance control is achieved by simplifying the model of human arm use. The benefits are demonstrated in virtual object manipulation. The improved control of contact dynamics promise more efficient exploration of virtual and remote environments. This thesis presents methods for efficient information transfer through tactile perception by both sensory feedback and motor actions. The capabilities and limitations of the human sensorimotor system are carefully considered and employed to design wearable interfaces applied to sensory substitution and telerobotics.
Supervisor: Burdet, Etienne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral