Our skin is a remarkable sensory system capable of encoding the world around us through touch. If we were to suddenly loose our sense of touch we would functioning in the world nearly impossible. We would have to rely upon our sense of vision to keep our balance or to avoid obstacles. We couldn't feel the warmth of someone's touch when they hugged or comforted us. We would have much difficulty holding objects or manipulating them. These are only a few of the countless ways ways in which we use our sense of touch.
As robots become a greater part of our daily lives, it becomes important that they be built with "sensitive skins" so that they can function in the complex world of humans. I believe that nature provides a wonderful template for how such "skins" should be designed. Beyond the areas of obstacle avoidance and manipulation which have been the focus of a majority of the attention of robotics research recently, are entire realms of touch that have yet to be greatly explored. These areas of social and affective touch, such as hand shaking or petting, are parts of our daily tactile lives. In my research, I am interested in not only designing full-body "sensitive skins" for robotic companions, but also in how the data coming from the hundreds of sensors in these skins can be processed quickly and efficiently to determine the appropriate response, specifically for the realms of social and affective touch.
For more information please look at the Projects and Publications sections of this website.