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A psychophysical evaluation of haptic controllers: viscosity perception of soft environments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2013

Hyoung Il Son*
Institute of Industrial Technology, Samsung Heavy Industries, 217 Munji-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-380, Republic of Korea
Hoeryong Jung
Institute of Industrial Technology, Samsung Heavy Industries, 217 Munji-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-380, Republic of Korea
Doo Yong Lee
Department of Mechanical Engineering, KAIST, 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, 305-701, Republic of Korea. E-mail:
Jang Ho Cho
Department of Automatic Control, Lund University, PO Box 118, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden. E-mail:
Heinrich H. Bülthoff
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Spemannstraße 38, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. E-mail: Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, Korea University, Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul 136-713, Republic of Korea
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,


In this paper, human viscosity perception in haptic teleoperation systems is thoroughly analyzed. An accurate perception of viscoelastic environmental properties such as viscosity is a critical ability in several contexts, such as telesurgery, telerehabilitation, telemedicine, and soft-tissue interaction. We study and compare the ability to perceive viscosity from the standpoint of detection and discrimination using several relevant control methods for the teleoperator. The perception-based method, which was proposed by the authors to enhance the operator's kinesthetic perception, is compared with the conventional transparency-based control method for the teleoperation system. The fidelity-based method, which is a primary method among perception-centered control schemes in teleoperation, is also studied. We also examine the necessity and impact of the remote-site force information for each of the methods. The comparison is based on a series of psychophysical experiments measuring absolute threshold and just noticeable difference for all conditions. The results clearly show that the perception-based method enhances both detection and discrimination abilities compare with other control methods. The results further show that the fidelity-based method confers a better discrimination ability than the transparency-based method, although this is not true with respect to detection ability. In addition, we show that force information improves viscosity detection for all control methods, as predicted from previous theoretical analysis, but improves the discrimination threshold only for the perception-based method.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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