Behavior-based Approach to the Generation of Haptic Feedback in Virtual Reality Training Systems

Period of Performance: 07/01/2003 - 04/30/2004


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Sovoz, Inc.
38 Cherry Brook Drive
Princeton, NJ 08540
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Pennsylvania
3330 Walnut Street, Levine hal
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Institution POC


Advances in the fields of real-time computer graphics, behavioral animation and artificial intelligence are enabling creation of realistic 3D Virtual Environments (VE) in which participants can acquire skills that are normally too costly, dangerous or otherwise impossible to achieve using traditional training methods. The effectiveness of such training applications is currently limited when requiring significant interaction with objects in the virtual world, due to the degree in which haptic stimuli (such as contact forces, friction, vibration, etc.) can be adequately represented and simulated. Recently, a low cost, low weight, and low complexity device, known as a "tactor," has been developed to provide these capabilities. In Phase I of the project soVoz will determine the feasibility of using a wearable tactor device array in conjunction with a behavior-based authoring paradigm for producing haptic stimuli in virtual training applications. Reaching tasks involving object contact, manipulation and constraints will be used to evaluate the efficacy of the approach. The proposed project will develop a set of haptic design guidelines, a behavior-based simulation system, authoring tools and an application programming interface for rendering haptic stimuli in a variety of virtual environments. In addition, a preliminary analysis of the extent to which different forms of haptic feedback can enhance task performance will be conducted. Successful completion of Phase I of the project will set the stage for developing tactor-based garments and associated authoring tools in Phase II that elevate the rendering of haptic feedback in virtual environments to the same level as that of triggering a visual or audio special effect. Such capabilities will not only significantly enhance the sense of realism experienced in a virtual environment, by tapping into a currently under utilized sensory modality (i.e. sense of touch), but also can be used as a new channel of communication for situational awareness, injury emulation, or to alert and direct the user when visual and/or auditory cues are either unavailable or inappropriate. Anticipated benefits include development of a wearable, haptic display system and associated authoring tools capable of improving the immersive qualities and effectiveness of Virtual Reality (VR) training systems. Such a system would have application across a broad range of industries including: military, homeland security, education, corporate training, maintenance and interactive entertainment. Specific applications include: flight simulators, CQB-like training systems, diver training systems, maintenance trainers, virtual reality and commercial 3D computer games, sports training (e.g. providing situational awareness of proper posture during golf swings, gymnastics, skiing, etc.), and homeland security first responder training systems.