Now a computer that can sense and feel

March 5th, 2008 - 12:54 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 5 (IANS) Computers may now enable people to experience the most realistic sense of touch, perceiving textures or feeling hard surfaces, with the help of a radical new touch-based interface. The interface, called haptic interface, relies on magnetic levitation and uses a single, lightweight moving part, unlike most other existing ones based on motors and bulky mechanical linkages and cables.

Although haptic interfaces have applications in engineering design, entertainment, assembly, remote operation of robots, and in medical and dental training, their full potential has yet to be explored.

“That’s particularly the case for magnetic levitation haptic interfaces because so few have been available for use by researchers,” said Ralph Hollis of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute.

Working on the prototype since 1997, Hollis fine-tuned its performance, enhanced its ergonomics and lowered its cost.

The team also built 10 copies, six of which are being distributed to haptic researchers across the US and Canada.

“We have gone from the prototype to a much more advanced system that other researchers can use,” Hollis said. Putting the instrument in the hands of other researchers is critical in a young, developing field such as haptic technology,” he emphasised.

Commenting on the prototype, Hong Tan of Purdue University said it is “beyond the capability of most commercially available haptic devices”.

A user moves the handle much like a computer mouse, but in three dimensions with six degrees of freedom - up/down, side to side, back/forth, yaw, pitch and roll.

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