We explore haptics, robotics, and interactive technologies. Our work is inspired by capabilities of humans and other animals. We design haptic devices, create soft or wearable robots, investigate new material technologies, advance applications in VR and health, and explore the human mind.  

The lab is directed by Prof. Yon Visell. Visell is active in transdisciplinary research intersecting haptics, soft robotics, signals and acoustics. He is General Co-Chair for IEEE Haptics Symposium 2020, the longest running haptics conference. He has held positions at UCSB, and a host of other science, art, and engineering institutions and companies in North America and Europe, including as DSP developer at Ableton. More about Visell in his bio

Our lab includes an inspiring group of engineers, artists, and scientists. It is part of the Media Arts and Technology Program, Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at UCSB. We are based in the California NanoSystems Institute, affiliated with the Communication and Signal Processing group in the Department of ECE and with the Dynamic Systems, Control, and Robotics in the Department of ME. The lab is affiliated with the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids, the UCSB Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior, and with the UCSB Robotics Group. The lab has received three awards, and a total of 11 nominations, for work presented at the top conferences in haptics.

Recent News

08.2019 Visell gave a live audiovisual performance at the Red Light District, New York, using optical sensing of sound transmitted in the body.

08.2019 Visell gave a seminar at North Carolina State University describing our work on haptics, soft robotics, and soft electronics. The talk was hosted by Prof. Michael Dickey of the NC State Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

07.2019 The Lab received the Best Demonstration Award at IEEE World Haptics in Tokyo, out of 65 peer-reviewed demos exhibited at the conference. The awarded work was based on our paper “Spatiotemporal Haptic Effects from a Single Actuator via Spectral Control of Cutaneous Wave Propagation”, by Dandu, Shao, Stanley, and Visell. World Haptics 2019 was the largest to date, with more than 800 attendees.

07.2019 Visell gave an invited talk on Tactile Waves at the 2020 IEEE World Haptics Conference workshop on the Neuroscience of Touch, organized by Thonnard (Louvain), Hayward (Sorbonne), and Basdogan (Koç). He also presented at the Satellite Symposium on Haptic Science at Keio University, organized by Nakatani (Keio) and Kuroki (NTT).

06.2019 Visell gave a seminar at Sorbonne University, Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics, hosted by Prof. Vincent Hayward. The seminar coincided with the first real time translation to tactile sign language via the HaptiComm device for deaf blind communication created by Topp, Duvernoy, and Hayward.

06.2019 Visell visited the University of Pisa where he gave an invited talk during the Robotics Research Jam at Centro E. Piaggio June 18-19. His talk was entitled: Haptics and Robotics: Inspiration from Mechanics at Multiple Scales.

05.2019 Our new work on exploiting wave physics for haptic feedback is nominated for a best paper award at IEEE World Haptics 2019. Congrats to student authors Bharat Dandu and Yitian Shao! The full paper citation (B. Dandu et al., 2019) appears below.

05.2019 Visell gave a seminar at the Center for Adaptive Systems of Brain-Body Interactions at George Mason University near Washington D.C., hosted by Prof. Siddartha Sidkar. The Center at GMU is also host to the PhD research of RE Touch Lab alumnus Shriniwas Patwardhan, who is investigating advanced upper limb prosthetic devices integrating ultrasound sensing and haptic feedback.

04.2019 Visell represented UCSB at the US Capitol in DC to talk about the science of haptics as part of the CNSF Annual Event, meeting staff from offices of Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Salud Carbajal, Rep. Tony Cardenas, Rep. Ken Calvert, and the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

04.2019 The RE Touch Lab was fortunate to host our 2019 Visiting Artists-in-Residence LoVid (Artist-Researchers Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus) in collaboration with the UCSB Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

04.2019 The lab is featured in an article, “Are we losing touch with our world?”, in the latest issue of Current Biology (Cell Press).

04.2019 The RE Touch Lab received funding from the 2019 California Nanosystems Institute Technology Seed Grant competition to advance our work on soft robotic wearables for athletics and rehabilitation.

03.2019 Three papers from the lab were accepted for presentation at the IEEE World Haptics Conference, Tokyo, Japan, July 8-12, 2019. The papers will be presented by PhD students Greg Reardon, Bharat Dandu, and Anzu Kawazoe. A work-in-progress paper will be also presented by visiting postdoctoral researcher Taku Hachisu. Citation details are listed below.

02.2019 In a new article, Shantonu Biswas and Yon Visell review the state of the art in emerging materials technologies for haptics, the challenges posed by engineering tactile displays that can match human capabilities, and prospects for the future. S. Biswas, Y. Visell, Emerging Materials Technologies for Haptics. Advanced Materials Technologies, 4 (1900042), 2019.

Selected Recent Journal Publications (see Full list or Google Scholar)

Y. Shao, H. Hui, Y. Visell, A Wearable Tactile Sensor Array for Large Area Remote Vibration Sensing in the Hand.
arxiv.org:1908.08199 (cs.RO), Preprint, 2019.

M. Zhu, T. N. Do, E. W. Hawkes, Y. Visell, Fluidic Fabric Muscle Sheets for Wearable and Soft Robotics.
Soft Robotics, To Appear, 2019. Preprint: arxiv.org:1903.08253 (cs.RO).

S. Biswas, Y. Visell, Emerging Materials Technologies for Haptics [PDF].
Advanced Materials Technologies 4 (1900042), 2019.  

S. Patwardhan, A. Kawazoe, D. Kerr, M. Nakatani, Y. Visell, Dynamics and Perception in the Thermal Grill Illusion [PDF].
IEEE Transactions on Haptics, To Appear, 2019.

B. Dandu, I. Kuling, Y. Visell, Proprioceptive Localization of the Fingers: Coarse, Biased, and Context-Sensitive [PDF].
IEEE Transactions on Haptics, To Appear, 2019.

T. N. Do, H. Phan, T.-Q. Nguyen, and Y. Visell,  Miniature Soft Electromagnetic Actuators for Robotic Applications [PDF+SI].
Advanced Functional Materials, 2018. Cover article. 

B. Khojasteh, M. Janko, Y. Visell, Complexity, rate, and scale in sliding friction dynamics between a finger and textured surface.  
Nature Scientific Reports 8 (13710), 2018. 

M. Janko, M. Wiertlewski, Y. Visell, Contact geometry and mechanics predict friction forces during tactile surface exploration
Nature Scientific Reports, 8 (4868), 2018.

B. Li, Y. Shi, A. K. Fontecchio, Y. Visell, Mechanical Imaging of Soft Tissues with a Highly Compliant Tactile Sensing Array [PDF].  
IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 65 (3), 2018.  

T. N. Do, Y. Visell, Stretchable, Twisted Conductive Microtubules for Wearable Computing, Robotics, Electronics, and Healthcare [PDF].
Nature Scientific Reports 7 (1753), 2017.

Y. Shao, V. Hayward, Y. Visell, Spatial Patterns of Cutaneous Vibration During Whole-Hand Haptic Interactions [PDF+SI]
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (15), 2016.

B. Li, A. K. Fontecchio, Y. Visell, Mutual capacitance of liquid conductors in deformable tactile sensing arrays [PDF]
Applied Physics Letters 108, 2016.

Selected Recent Conference Publications (see Full list or Google Scholar)

B. Dandu, Y. Shao, A. Stanley (Facebook), Y. Visell, Spatiotemporal Haptic Effects from a Single Actuator via Spectral Control of Cutaneous Wave Propagation [PDF] [Abstract]. Proc. IEEE World Haptics Conference, 2019.
Best Demonstration Award 🏆 Best Student Paper Finalist🏅 Best Paper Award Nomination🏅

G. Reardon, Y. Shao, B. Dandu, W. Frier, B. Long, O. Georgiou (Ultrahaptics), Y. Visell, Cutaneous Wave Propagation Shapes Tactile Motion: Evidence from Air-Coupled Ultrasound [PDF]. Proc. IEEE World Haptics Conference, 2019.

A. Kawazoe, M. Di Luca (Facebook, Birmingham), Y. Visell, Tactile Echoes: A Wearable System for Tactile Augmentation of Objects
[PDF] {Abstract]. Proc. IEEE World Haptics Conference, 2019.

T. Hachisu, Y. Shao, K. Suzuki (Tsukuba), Y. Visell, Empirical Study on Transfer Functions from Wrists to Hands.
IEEE World Haptics Conference, Work-in-Progress, 2019.

S. Patwardhan, A. Kawazoe, D. Kerr (Sansum), M. Nakatani (Keio), Y. Visell, Too hot, too fast! Using the thermal grill illusion to explore dynamic thermal perception.  [Expanded journal version] Proc. IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2018.
Best Student Presentation Finalist🏅 Best Paper Award Nomination🏅

J. Jiao, Y. Zhang, D. Wang, Y. Visell, D. Cao, X. Guo, X. Sun (Beihang), Data-Driven Rendering of Fabric Textures on Electrostatic Tactile Displays. Proc. IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2018.

B. Dandu, I. Kuling (VUA), Y. Visell, Where Are My Fingers? Assessing Multi-Digit Proprioceptive Localization.  Proc. IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2018 [Expanded journal version]. Best Paper Award Nomination🏅

Y. Shao, Y. Visell, Learning Constituent Parts of Touch Stimuli from Whole Hand Vibrations. Proc. IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2016. 
Best Paper Award Runner Up🏅

M. Chartier, N. Thomas, Y. Shao, Y. Visell, Toward a Wearable Tactile Sensory Amplification Device: Transfer Characteristics and Optimization [PDF].  IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2016. 
Best Paper Award, Work-in-Progress Category 🏆

R. Lerch, H. Cui, S. Patwardhan, Y. Visell, C. Sims, Exploring Haptic Working Memory as a Capacity Limited Information Channel [PDF]. Proc. IEEE Haptics Symposium, 2016. 
Best Paper Award Finalist 🏅

The lab has been generously supported through grants from the National Science Foundation, tech, VR and healthcare industries. We enjoy collaboration and encourage interested parties to contact Prof. Visell. (If he doesn’t reply immediately try emailing him again!)

We hold lab meetings about every week.  Interested in working with us? Stop by a lab meeting or read some of our papers and contact us. Engineers, scientists, artists, and designers are all welcome. 

UCSB is an outstanding place to work, and College of Engineering is renowned for its research excellence.  Engineering faculty members include three Nobel Laureates, 37 members of the National Academies of Engineering or Invention, numerous IEEE Fellows and other awards. UCSB was ranked the #1 public university in the world for engineering research citation impact (Leiden, 2015, 2016), and ranked #9 in the world for producing Nobel laureates (Times Higher Education, 2017).  Our Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering graduate programs ranked in the top 5 in the most recent US National Research Council ratings, and our Materials and Chemical Engineering graduate programs consistently rank among the top 5 in the US (US News and NRC).


California NanoSystems Institute, home of the RE Touch Lab

UCSB Campus at the edge of the Pacific Ocean

Santa Barbara is a hub for high technology and innovative startups, with one of the highest levels of venture capital investment per capita in the United States.  A very incomplete sampling of companies in and near Santa Barbara: Sonos, FLIR, SpaceX, TrackR, Cree, Biopac, Medtronic, InTouch Health (telemedicine / robotics), Productive Robotics, Raytheon, AppFolio, Moog, LogMeIn, Yardi, Zoom, Toyon, L3, Curvature, Eucalyptus (cloud computing), Inogen, bioIQ, Advanced Scientific Concepts (Lidar), Milo, NuSil, Spectron Microsystems, Channel Technologies Group / Piezo Kinetics, Crystalline Mirror Solutions, Freedom Photonics, Owl Biomedical, WorldViz (VR), D2 Technologies, SORAA (solid state lighting / lasers), Apeel Sciences, and many, many others.