A flexible multimodal tactile display for delivering shape and material information
The growing complexity of telemanipulation tasks calls for increased realism and intuitiveness of the interaction between the user and the master control. Humans perceive multiple haptic features of an object such as its stiffness, temperature, and shape, and rely on this multimodal information to achieve dexterous manipulation. However, to date, remote manipulators rarely provide haptic information to the operator. Moreover, current multimodal displays are often too rigid and bulky to be integrated into the manipulator. Thus, to improve the quality of teleoperation, there is a high demand for flexible devices that are capable of matching the skin's curvature while delivering multimodal haptic information to the operator. In this paper, we present a flexible tactile display delivering tactile and thermal stimuli to the user's skin. We propose a hybrid electromagnetic-pneumatic actuation to operate a 2 x 2 array of tactile cells. Each cell provides a repetitive stimulation with a force and an indentation that are above the human perception threshold for the finger, palm, and forearm. In addition, the temperature of the display's surface is controlled using a Peltier element attached to an air-cooled heatsink. By providing a reproducible cooling gradient, our display simulates common materials encountered in the daily environment. User study results show that (1) the tactile stimulation is perceived well and (2) the identification rates of objects simulated with the display were comparable to those obtained with real objects. Unlike previous devices, the thermal stimulation is delivered while the display is in constant contact with the user's skin, a necessary requirement for teleoperation. These results demonstrate the potential of our device as a promising tactile display for providing haptic feedback in teleoperation. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.