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Sensors 2018, 18(1), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/s18010261

Neuromorphic Vibrotactile Stimulation of Fingertips for Encoding Object Stiffness in Telepresence Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Applications

1
Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, The BioRobotics Institute, 56025 Pisa, Italy
2
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, “Sapienza” University of Rome, 00185 Roma, Italy
3
Production Engineering Department, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Belgrade, 11120 Belgrade, Serbia
4
Academy of Engineering Sciences of Serbia (AISS), 11120 Belgrade, Serbia
5
School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, 2 Dublin, Ireland
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 December 2017 / Revised: 10 January 2018 / Accepted: 12 January 2018 / Published: 17 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Force and Pressure Based Sensing Medical Application)
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Abstract

We present a tactile telepresence system for real-time transmission of information about object stiffness to the human fingertips. Experimental tests were performed across two laboratories (Italy and Ireland). In the Italian laboratory, a mechatronic sensing platform indented different rubber samples. Information about rubber stiffness was converted into on-off events using a neuronal spiking model and sent to a vibrotactile glove in the Irish laboratory. Participants discriminated the variation of the stiffness of stimuli according to a two-alternative forced choice protocol. Stiffness discrimination was based on the variation of the temporal pattern of spikes generated during the indentation of the rubber samples. The results suggest that vibrotactile stimulation can effectively simulate surface stiffness when using neuronal spiking models to trigger vibrations in the haptic interface. Specifically, fractional variations of stiffness down to 0.67 were significantly discriminated with the developed neuromorphic haptic interface. This is a performance comparable, though slightly worse, to the threshold obtained in a benchmark experiment evaluating the same set of stimuli naturally with the own hand. Our paper presents a bioinspired method for delivering sensory feedback about object properties to human skin based on contingency–mimetic neuronal models, and can be useful for the design of high performance haptic devices. View Full-Text
Keywords: tactile perception; neuromorphic; contingency-mimetics; telepresence; vibrotactile; sensory augmentation; haptics tactile perception; neuromorphic; contingency-mimetics; telepresence; vibrotactile; sensory augmentation; haptics
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Sorgini, F.; Massari, L.; D’Abbraccio, J.; Palermo, E.; Menciassi, A.; Petrovic, P.B.; Mazzoni, A.; Carrozza, M.C.; Newell, F.N.; Oddo, C.M. Neuromorphic Vibrotactile Stimulation of Fingertips for Encoding Object Stiffness in Telepresence Sensory Substitution and Augmentation Applications. Sensors 2018, 18, 261.

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