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GRASP Seminar: Karon MacLean, University of British Columbia “Haptic Communication: from Abstract to Affect”

April 3, 2009 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Abstract: I’m interested in how people communicate through the sense of touch, and how haptic information transfer interacts with perception in other modalities. I’ll discuss two very different kinds of haptic communication that my group has been studying recently. The first is *abstract* information, delivered one-way to your hand encoded in complex vibrations. We’ve found that humans are better at this than you might expect – depending on how the sensations are created; and the medium has potential for low-effort, background communication. In the second kind, we’re examining haptically communicated *affect*: what’s behind feels that we like or don’t like – can this be predicted or quantified? How do we communicate emotion haptically, to people or animals, and is this an essential part of emotional communication more generally? We’re building a highly sensed animatronic Creature as an experimental platform, which we plan to use for basic study and in a therapeutic setting.


Karon MacLean started out pre-med at Stanford, picked up engineering (to build things) and proceeded to MIT for a MSc and PhD in Mech. This was interleaved with stints as an engineer doing MEMS and anthropomorphic robotics, and later in a Silicon Valley thinktank where she received much-needed anti-arts deconditioning. At some point she noticed that large complicated robots tended to (a) not work much of the time and (b) require their tenders and eventual users to spend their time glued to a desk which was not where she wanted to be. She therefore developed an interest in small, simple robots that display virtual models to people (now called haptics), can be put anywhere including your pocket, and do not require a supercomputer to model. She has been at UBC Computer Science since 2000 where her group unites robotics with psychology and interaction design with the goal of mass deployment of communicative and *calm* haptic interaction.

Peter Wall Early Career Scholar (2001); Izzak Walton Killam Memorial Faculty Research Fellowship (2007); Charles A. McDowell Award, 2008. Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics, founding member of several other editorial and advisory boards, co-chair of the 2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium.


April 3, 2009
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
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