The Future at Your Fingertips

| June 30, 2020

Welcome to USC’s Haptics Robotic and Virtual Interaction Lab, where Heather Culbertson and her students explore how humans interact with the world, robots and technology through touch.

BRINGING THE SENSE OF TOUCH TO VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERIENCES COULD AFFECT EVERYTHING FROM SURGICAL ROBOTS TO ONLINE SHOPPING. PHOTO/MADELIN LUM.

On a visit to Heather Culbertson’s lab, you might be gently patted on the shoulder by a robot. How would that make you feel? If the answer is “a bit uncomfortable,” you are not alone.

“A lot of people have never been touched by or interacted with a robot, so at first, they’re a bit weirded out by it,” said Culbertson, a USC Viterbi assistant professor of computer science.

After noticing this tendency, Culbertson and her students programmed the robot to kick off the interaction with a friendly high-five. It worked — people loosened up and were more willing to interact with the robot going forward.

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