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RI Seminar: Ed Colgate
Force Feedback for Fingertips

Ed Colgate
Breed University Professor of Design, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Northwestern University

November 16, 2012, 3:30 PM, NSH 1305

Force feedback is the sine qua non of haptic interface for a profoundly physical reason: when we touch the world, it pushes back. Nonetheless, force feedback has been slow to appear in an important commercial arena: portable devices with touch screen interfaces. When haptics is found at all in these devices, it is generally limited to vibrotactile feedback. There are two principal reasons for this state of affairs, I believe: one, people interact with touch screens via their bare fingertips, but it has proven difficult to control the forces at the surface-fingertip interface; two, the value of force feedback in the context of touch screens has not been clearly established. This talk will describe our team’s efforts to address both challenges. I’ll explain how we go about harnessing friction to provide controlled forces at the fingertips, and I’ll describe several devices – the TPaD, ShiverPaD and LateralPaD – that we have developed to date. I’ll then go on to describe recent experiments that hint at the potential value of force feedback surface haptics. The first experiment examined the effect of surface haptics in driving. The second experiment examined the integration of surface haptic effects across multiple fingertips, pointing to novel and potentially more expressive forms of haptic feedback than those available to individual fingertips.

Additional Information

Host: Ali Israr

Appointments: Stephanie Matvey (

Speaker Biography

Ed Colgate is the Breed University Professor of Design at Northwestern University. His research interests lie in the areas of haptic interface, telemanipulation, prosthetics and physical human-robot interaction. With his colleague Michael Peshkin, Colgate is the inventor of a class of collaborative robots known as “cobots.” He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics. He also directs the Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation, which combines graduate-level engineering courses with a broad exposure to human-centered design. In addition to his academic pursuits, Colgate is a founder of three companies: Stanley Cobotics, Kinea Design and Tangible Haptics.