Abstract: A novel sensory substitution technique is presented.
Kinesthetic and cutaneous force feedback are substituted by
cutaneous feedback only, provided by two wearable devices able
to apply forces to the index finger and the thumb, while holding
a handle during a teleoperation task. The force pattern, fed
back to the user while using the cutaneous devices, is similar,
in terms of intensity and area of application, to the cutaneous
force pattern applied to the finger pad while interacting with a
haptic device providing both cutaneous and kinesthetic feedback.
The pattern generated using the cutaneous devices can be thought
as a subtraction between the complete haptic feedback and the
kinesthetic part of it. For this reason, we refer to this approach
as sensory subtraction instead of sensory substitution.
A needle insertion scenario is considered to validate the
approach. The haptic device is connected to a virtual environment
simulating a needle insertion task. Experiments show that the
perception of inserting a needle using the cutaneous-only feedback
is nearly indistinguishable from the one felt by the user
while using both cutaneous and kinesthetic feedback. As most
of the sensory substitution approaches, the proposed sensory
subtraction technique also has the advantage of not suffering
from typical stability issues of teleoperation systems due, for
instance, to communication delays. Moreover, experiments show
that the sensory subtraction technique outperforms sensory
substitution with more conventional visual feedback.