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GRASP on Robotics: Katherine Kuchenbecker, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, “Haptics and Physical Human-Robot Interaction”

April 22, 2022 @ 10:30 am - 11:45 am

This event was held LIVE  in Wu and Chen, with virtual attendees…


A haptic interface is a mechatronic system that modulates the physical interaction between a human and their tangible surroundings. Such systems typically take the form of grounded kinesthetic devices, ungrounded wearable devices, or surface devices, and they enable the user to act on and feel a remote or virtual environment. I will elucidate key approaches to creating effective haptic interfaces by showcasing several systems my team created and evaluated over the years. I will go into more detail about Haptipedia, our online database of grounded force-feedback devices, and Haptify, the system we recently created to quantitatively benchmark the performance of such interfaces. The talk will then transition to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI), where the engineered system acts as a social agent rather than a tool. In addition to inventing tactile sensors, we have created a robot that plays exercise games with its human partner and have developed methods for learning dynamic physical interactions from demonstrations, both with applications to rehabilitation. Finally, I will present HuggieBot, a custom robot that uses visual and haptic sensing to give good interactive hugs. The presented research stems from collaborations with Hasti Seifi, Karon MacLean, Farimah Fazlollahi, Naomi Fitter, Mayumi Mohan, Michelle Johnson, Siyao “Nick” Hu, Alexis Block, and many others from Penn, MPI-IS, and elsewhere.


Katherine Kuchenbecker

Katherine Kuchenbecker

Photo © Axel Griesch / Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker is a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart, Germany, where she leads the Haptic Intelligence Department. She earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2006, did postdoctoral research at the Johns Hopkins University, and was an engineering professor in MEAM and CIS at the University of Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2016, where she was also part of the GRASP Lab. Her research blends robotics and human-computer interaction and has foci in haptics, teleoperation, physical human-robot interaction, tactile sensing, and medical applications. She delivered a TEDYouth talk on haptics in 2012 and has been honored with a 2009 NSF CAREER Award, the 2012 IEEE RAS Academic Early Career Award, a 2014 Penn Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, elevation to IEEE Fellow in 2022, and various best paper, poster, demonstration, and reviewer awards. She co-chaired the IEEE Technical Committee on Haptics from 2015 to 2017 and the IEEE Haptics Symposium in 2016 and 2018. She is the spokesperson for the International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems (IMPRS-IS), a large Ph.D. program jointly operated by MPI-IS and the Universities of Stuttgart and Tübingen.


April 22, 2022
10:30 am - 11:45 am
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Wu and Chen Auditorium
3330 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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