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UCSB’s Visell Receives NSF CAREER Award

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif., May 5, 2018 — Yon Visell, assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his haptics research.

With this award, Visell aims to use his expertise to shed light on the wave-like nature of human touch sensing, with outcomes that could set the stage for advances in a wide array of fields, from engineering to neuroscience, medicine, and education. The NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

"Recent research has shown that even lightly touching an object with a finger excites elastic waves that travel throughout the hand, eliciting responses in the sensory nervous system that evoke the conscious experience of touch," Visell said. “But the physical processes that are involved are as yet unclear."

Haptic engineering is already improving our modern lives. Our smartwatches signal us when we receive a message or call, and interactive screens respond with a simulated "click" when we press a digital button. Video game controllers use haptics to heighten our experience when playing. Today, it is not difficult to imagine a future where haptic virtual reality enables new forms of hands-on education, in which haptic feedback is able to seamlessly augment our physical surroundings with digital controls, or a 3D model normally viewed on a computer screen becomes a palpable digital object that we can sculpt with our hands.

"In order to realize these innovations in human-machine interaction, fundamental advances are needed in our understanding of the sense of touch and movement of the body," Visell said.

Visell's RE Touch Lab will quantitatively explore mechanisms of touch-elicited wave propagation in order to catalyze advances in technologies for haptic sensing and feedback. The outcomes of the lab's work will have broad imfluence by establishing a unique approach to teaching concepts, from engineering and neuroscience, to students at all levels. It will do so by using the sense of touch as both a focal point and an arena for creative hands-on learning.
May 2018
BusinessNSFNational Science FoundationCareer AwardawardshapticsSensors & DetectorsYon VisellAmericas

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