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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 11;10(8):e0134095. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134095. eCollection 2015.

A Haptic Feedback Scheme to Accurately Position a Virtual Wrist Prosthesis Using a Three-Node Tactor Array.

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Mechanical Engineering Department, Rice University, Houston, TX, United States of America.
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, United States of America.


In this paper, a novel haptic feedback scheme, used for accurately positioning a 1DOF virtual wrist prosthesis through sensory substitution, is presented. The scheme employs a three-node tactor array and discretely and selectively modulates the stimulation frequency of each tactor to relay 11 discrete haptic stimuli to the user. Able-bodied participants were able to move the virtual wrist prosthesis via a surface electromyography based controller. The participants evaluated the feedback scheme without visual or audio feedback and relied solely on the haptic feedback alone to correctly position the hand. The scheme was evaluated through both normal (perpendicular) and shear (lateral) stimulations applied on the forearm. Normal stimulations were applied through a prototype device previously developed by the authors while shear stimulations were generated using an ubiquitous coin motor vibrotactor. Trials with no feedback served as a baseline to compare results within the study and to the literature. The results indicated that using normal and shear stimulations resulted in accurately positioning the virtual wrist, but were not significantly different. Using haptic feedback was substantially better than no feedback. The results found in this study are significant since the feedback scheme allows for using relatively few tactors to relay rich haptic information to the user and can be learned easily despite a relatively short amount of training. Additionally, the results are important for the haptic community since they contradict the common conception in the literature that normal stimulation is inferior to shear. From an ergonomic perspective normal stimulation has the potential to benefit upper limb amputees since it can operate at lower frequencies than shear-based vibrotactors while also generating less noise. Through further tuning of the novel haptic feedback scheme and normal stimulation device, a compact and comfortable sensory substitution device for upper limb amputees might be created.

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