Understanding the Brain

Haptic perception

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Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch. It involves a combination of somatosensory perception of patterns on the skin surface (e.g., edges, curvature, and texture) and proprioception of hand position and conformation.

People can rapidly and accurately identify three-dimensional objects by touch.[1] They do so through the use of exploratory procedures, such as moving the fingers over the outer surface of the object or holding the entire object in the hand.[2]

Gibson[3] defined the haptic system as "The sensibility of the individual to the world adjacent to his body by use of his body". Gibson and others emphasized the close link between haptic perception and body movement: haptic perception is active exploration. The concept of haptic perception is related to the concept of extended physiological proprioception according to which, when using a tool such as a stick, perceptual experience is transparently transferred to the end of the tool.

Haptic perception relies on the forces experienced during touch.[4] This research allows the creation of "virtual", illusory haptic shapes with different perceived qualities[5] which has clear application in haptic technology.[6]

Loss of the sense of touch is a catastrophic deficit that can impair walking and other skilled actions such as holding objects or using tools.[7]

See also


  1. Klatzky RL, Lederman SJ, & Metzger VA (1985). "Identifying objects by touch: An "expert system."". Perception & Psychophysics (37): 299–302. 
  2. Lederman SJ, & Klatzky RL (1987). "Hand movements: A window into haptic object recognition". Cognitive Psychology (19): 342–368. PMID 3608405. 
  3. Gibson, J.J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0313239614. 
  4. Robles-De-La-Torre & Hayward. Force Can Overcome Object Geometry In the perception of Shape Through Active Touch. Nature 412 (6845):445-8 (2001).
  5. "The Cutting edge of haptics"
  6. Robles-De-La-Torre G. Principles of Haptic Perception in Virtual Environments. In Grunwald M (Ed.), Human Haptic Perception, Birkhäuser Verlag, 2008.
  7. Robles-De-La-Torre.The Importance of the Sense of Touch in Virtual and Real Environments. IEEE Multimedia 13(3), Special issue on Haptic User Interfaces for Multimedia Systems, pp. 24-30 (2006).

Further reading

Lederman, S. J., & Klatzky, R. L. (1990). Haptic classification of common objects: Knowledge-driven exploration. Cognitive Psychology, 22, 421-459.

Grunwald, M. (Ed.) 2008. Human Haptic Perception - Basics and Applications. Basel/Boston/Berlin: Birkhaeuser Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7643-7611-6


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