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Research group overview

Palpable Machines

Principal investigator: Sile O'Modhrain

The Palpable Machines group aims to enrich the experience of interacting with the digital world by focusing on the capabilities of human sensory systems, in particular the sense of touch.


Body Mnemonics
Jussi Angesleva, Stephen Hughes, Ian Oakley, Dr. Sile O'Modhrain
Body mnemonics is a meta tool for portable devices that enhances their usability, shifts the interaction to the periphery of our concentration and makes them more responsive to our cultural background on the basis of three principles: proprioceptic sense, body image, and the "method of loci" mnemonic device. Using inertial sensing a portable device's movements in 3D space can be tracked, analysed and referenced to the posture of the user. This enables a user to store and access information on his or her own body space. For example, online banking information could be accessed by moving the device to your back pocket. Similarly, your music archive could be located at your ear.

Ian Oakley, Sile O'Modhrain
Haptic Instant Messaging - explores the concept of being able to send someone an instant message that is a touchable object - a ball they can catch and throw back, etc. Intended for use over the net with currently available consumer haptic technologies.

Jussi Angesleva, Carson Reynolds
EmoteMail is an email client that is augmented to convey aspects of the writing context to the recipient. The client captures facial expressions and typing speed and introduces them as design elements. These contextual cues provide extra information that can help the recipient decode the tone of the mail. Moreover, the contextual information is gathered and automatically embedded as the sender composes the email, allowing an additional channel of expression.

Cormac Cannon
The EpipE is a new expressive controller based on the Irish Uilleann Pipes, a sophisticated bagpipe. One feature of the instrument, unusual in a woodwind, is that it allows a number of notes to be played simultaneously. At the core of the EpipE system is a unique sensing arrangement providing the controller with a continuous measure of the degree to which the performer is covering each of its toneholes. This important element is missing from existing electronic woodwinds and is an essential component of an expressive performance system.

Handling Perspective
Sile O'Modhrain; Fiona Newell (Trinity College Dublin)
This study investigates the ability to make the connection between feeling an object and viewing it in a virtual environment. The research will involve tasks in which the relationship between a felt object and its virtual counterpart will be manipulated. The findings will have implications for the design of applications that rely on physical objects as handles to virtual worlds.

Stephen Hughes, Ian Oakley, Jussi Angesleva
We have built a device, MESH, which is an add-on to portable devices such as Ipaqs, that contains 3-axis inertial sensing through orthogonallymounted accelarometers and gyros, turning the entire mobile device into a 3D gestural input device. Furthermore, MESH also contains a high-fidelity vibrotactile display, consisting of up to three audiological actuators (normally used for tactile hearing aids) and a custom-designed sample buffer, so that it is also capable of storing and displayng a wide range of vibration-based touch effects. MESH also includes a magnetometer and GPS receiver so that applications running on the host mobile device have access to compass heading information and when GPS is available, to their absolute position in teh world frame of reference. MESH as an on-board PIC which handles communication with the host mobile device over a serial bus and which also handles the sampling of sensor information and the playback of touch effects. All of these components, listed in the table are integrated into the custom-designed circuit detailed in the attached schematic diagrams. MESH is optimised to run off the host's power supply, increasing the power consumption of the host by no more than 10% in our current implementation.

Georg Essl, Sile O'Modhrain
PebbleBox consists of a container box. This can be a wooden chest or a plastic manufactured container. The scale is flexible and can be hand size to stage scale. Our implementaion uses a wooden chest of dimensions 19x30x7cm. It is padded insided with foam material of 3cm thickness.

reAction Figures
Andy Brady, Sile O'Modhrain
This project looks at the effects of action on a dynamic toy. reAction figures are equipped with the ability to physically change in shape based on sensor feedback of the play they experience. As a child plays with a reAction figure the dolls muscles develop and grow. The idea is to provide a tool where a child can learn the co-relationship of exercise and fitness in a safe and fun way. The dolls growth will be optimal if the play is balanced with the doll neither overused nor neglected.

Andy Brady, Ian Oakley, Stephen Hughes, Sile O'Modhrain
The goal of the Relay project is to provide a person operating a remote control vehicle with haptic feedback so that they can feel the forces, which the vehicle is experiencing through the handset. In the Relay project, we have augmented a radio controlled car with sensors, and constructed a novel control handset that uses ungrounded haptic feedback to display the forces and torques experienced by the car as it is driven.

Jussi Angesleva
Spin is a critical design concept merging traditional pocket watch and a keychain. The form and usage of a pocket watch are normally taken for granted. For us, the chain common to both of these objects served as the inspiration to create a large wearable display for personal use and as a means to present the time to others.

Sile O'Modhrain; Werner Blau, Marc In Het Panhuis (Trinity College Dublin)
Nanotechnology will be explored to develop a full-page tactile display capable of varied resolution in height and taxle spacing. This novel display will enable studying human tactile texture perception. In addition it will have the capability to display refreshable tactile graphics and Braille.

Touch Football
Cormac Cannon
In this project, we augment a football with a wireless impact sensor in order to gather impact data in real time to display, to a viewer's sense of touch, what is happening to a ball in play.

Touch TV
Andy Brady, Allison Wood, Cormac Cannon, Stephen Hughes, Ian Oakley, Sile O'Modhrain
Can touch feedback enhance the TV viewing experience? This project explores two scenarios in particular, the gathering and display of real-time touch data in the context of a sports broadcast (see Touch Football and Relay, below) and the creation of authored touch content (see Touching Tales, below.) This project also involved the building of a prototype touch-enhanced TV remote control, as well as the use of some pre-existing haptic and vibrotactile display displays.

Touching Tales
Ian Oakley, Alison Wood, Andy Brady, Sile O'Modhrain
In the Touching Tales project we are creating a series of children's cartoons and short scenarios that allow us to explore many complex issues raised by introducing a new sensory modality into broadcast media. For example, should the haptic "view" always follow the camera? Who's point of view should you feel if there are many characters in a scene? Can you shift your haptic point of view as easily as the camera shifts your visual point of view? Built from the ground up to integrate touch effects with sound and animation, these cartoons allow us to address these and many other issues surrounding the integration of an entirely new sensory channel into broadcast content.