Touching Objects in Virtual Reality Using Next-Generation Haptic Interfaces

Localization : Inria/IRISA Center, Rennes, France
Advisors: Anatole Lécuyer (Inria), Maud Marchal (INSA Rennes)
Description :
This PhD is in the frame of a French collaborative research project funded by the French National Research Agency called “LOBBY-BOT”. Partners of the project are Inria Rennes, RENAULT company, LS2N laboratory, and CLARTE technological center. The project aims at designing a next generation of haptic interfaces for Virtual Reality industrial applications based on an “encountered-type approach”.

In a Virtual Reality simulation, haptic devices are supposed to allow a more tangible and physical interaction with the virtual environment. To date, efficient haptic devices do exist and can be purchased along with industrial applications, but they suffer from several drawbacks. Particularly, they usually have to be permanently held by the user and do not allow for touching virtual object in a natural fashion. Yet, many applications require hand-free interaction. This is particularly the case with simulations that require tactile exploration of the physical properties of virtual objects, or simulations that require a high fidelity haptic feedback. Due to the lack of relevant solutions, it is still to date impossible to carry on such a natural haptic interaction in a virtual reality simulation.

Encountered-type haptic devices are an alternative category of haptic devices that may address that requirement. They rely on a mobile physical prop, usually actuated by a robot, that constantly follows the user hand, and encounter it only when needed, e.g. to simulate a contact between the user and the virtual environment. Just as the lobby-boy, in the Grand Budapest Hotel movie, is supposed to anticipate any customer wishes, our Lobby-Bot robot is supposed to anticipate any motion of the user in the simulation.

However, numerous limitations have to be overcome prior to a real industrial usage involving encountered-type haptic devices may be considered.

In this PhD program, we aim at designing novel 3D interactive techniques specifically adapted to this unique kind of haptic interface in immersive Virtual Reality. The successful candidate will thus study, design, and then assess a set of several novel software/interaction techniques in order to compensate for intrinsic limitations of encountered-type haptic devices. Examples of such limitations are the potential delays between the encountered-type haptic devices and the user, the limited set of shapes and textures that can be simulated, or the problems related to surface follow-through.

The PhD results will be integrated into an operational prototype available in CLARTE facilities, and will be used to assess the benefits of encountered-type haptic devices when used in an industrial use-case that can not be simulated with current haptic technologies (provided by RENAULT company): the perceived quality in an automotive interior.

Skills :
Master of Science (or equivalent) in Computer Science (Computer Science, Visualization, Virtual Reality, Computer Graphics)
Good programming skills : C/C++
Motivation for Human Perception, or Cognitive Sciences.

Contacts :
Anatole Lécuyer, Inria,
Maud Marchal, INSA Rennes,

References :
S. Biggs et M. Srinivasan, « Haptic interfaces », in Handbook of virtual environments, K. Stanney Eds., 2002, p. 93‑116.
Y. Yokokohji, J. Kinoshita, et T. Yoshikawa, « Path planning for encountered-type haptic devices that render multiple objects in 3D space », in Proceedings IEEE Virtual Reality 2001, 2001, p. 271‑278.
M. Yafune et Y. Yokokohji, « Haptically rendering different switches arranged on a virtual control panel by using an encountered-type haptic device », in 2011 IEEE World Haptics Conference, 2011, p. 551‑556.
E. Vonach, C. Getterer, et H. Kaufman, « VRRobot: Robot Actuated Props in an Infinite Virtual Environment », in Proceedings of IEEE Virtual Reality Annual International Symposium, 2017.
B. Araujo, R. Jota, V. Perumal, J. X. Yao, K. Singh, et D. Wigdor, « Snake Charmer: Physically Enabling Virtual Objects », in Proceedings of the TEI ’16: Tenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, New York, NY, USA, 2016, p. 218–226.
F. Gonzalez, W. Bachta, et F. Gosselin, « Smooth transition-based control of encounter-type haptic devices », in 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015, p. 291‑297.

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