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The Penn Haptics Group is part of the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. It is directed by Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics Department, with membership in the Bioengineering Graduate Group and a secondary appointment in Computer and Information Science.

Important: Starting in January 2017, Professor Kuchenbecker left Penn to become a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany. There she is establishing the new Haptic Intelligence Department, which will pursue research that is similar to her group's work at Penn. This move will be permanent, so all activities of the Penn Haptics Group will wind down and/or transfer to her new lab in Germany.


To learn more about our group's work, watch Professor Kuchenbecker's TED talk (delivered at TEDYouth in November 2012), read the Philadelphia City Paper article about our lab, watch a YouTube video of Professor Kuchenbecker giving an overview of what our lab studies, or peruse the Pennsylvania Gazette article about our lab. For a more in-depth view of our research, you can watch the hour-long research talk she gave at Iowa State, entitled "Haptics: Touch Feedback for Robotic Surgery, Tablet Computers, and More". For a listing of the group's recent activities, take a look at our news page.

Haptics is the science of understanding and improving human interaction with the physical world through the sense of touch. Haptic interfaces are computer-controlled electro-mechanical systems that enable a user to feel and manipulate a real, remote, or virtual environment. They often take the form of a lightweight, backdrivable robotic arm, measuring the motion of the human hand and providing appropriate force feedback throughout the interaction; other haptic interfaces focus on tactile interactions directly through the skin.

Haptic interfaces for real interactions can be configured to steady the hand of an eye surgeon during delicate interventions or guide the hand of an individual assembling tiny mechanical components. When applied to teleoperation, haptic interfaces allow the user to dexterously control the motion of a robot manipulator in an unreachable environment, such as the depths of the sea or the operative site in minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery. Lastly, haptic interfaces can be connected to a computational model of a physical environment to facilitate training of manual skills like medical procedures or to augment more general human-computer interactions for education or entertainment. We pursue research in all of these areas, plus related work in robotics.

Some specific topics that especially interest the Penn Haptics Group are improving the authenticity of haptic feedback from remote and virtual environments, data-driven virtual environment rendering, designing new mechatronic haptic interfaces, improving haptic feedback in surgical and medical simulation, teleoperation with flexible robots, force sensing and tissue characterization in medical instrumentation, human-machine interaction, user interface design, grasping and manipulation.