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TEDYouth 2012

Katherine Kuchenbecker: The technology of touch

November 17, 2012

As we move through the world, we have an innate sense of how things feel -- the sensations they produce on our skin and how our bodies orient to them. Can technology leverage this? In this fun, fascinating TED-Ed lesson, learn about the field of haptics, and how it could change everything from the way we shop online to how dentists learn the telltale feel of a cavity.

Katherine Kuchenbecker - Mechanical engineer
Katherine Kuchenbecker works on incorporating the sense of touch directly into virtual objects. Imagine being able to feel textures on your digital screens. Full bio

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Katherine Kuchenbecker - Mechanical engineer
Katherine Kuchenbecker works on incorporating the sense of touch directly into virtual objects. Imagine being able to feel textures on your digital screens.

Why you should listen

Could technology be more touchy feely? Mechanical engineer Katherine Kuchenbecker answers this question with a resounding ‘yes.’ Kuchenbecker researches the design, control and performance of robotic systems that enable a user to touch virtual objects and distant environments as though they were real and within reach. These interfaces combine electromechanical sensors, actuators and computer control, allowing for technology that can fool the human sense of touch, otherwise known as ‘haptics.’

Imagine a tablet computer that lets you feel fabrics and textures, robotic surgical tools that let doctors use their incredibly well-honed sense of touch, video games that allow you to feel hits and computer programs that teach you the movements of a sport. By researching these areas -- as well as applications in stroke rehabilitation and assistance for the blind -- Kuchenbecker seeks to improve our understanding of touch and uncover new opportunities to use it in interactions between humans, computers and machines.

An assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kuchenbecker has been named to the Popular Science Brilliant 10. She is also an avid photographer, and played volleyball at Stanford for two seasons.

The original video is available on TED.com
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