World Haptics Conference 2019

Written by Muge Cavdan

World Haptics Conference 2019 (WHC) was the first major conference that I attend to in haptics. I was super excited to see all other works in my field. Since it is not only research but also applied field-oriented conference, I saw a lot of applications of the pure research.

First day of WHC 2019’s schedule is only included workshops. A total of 5 workshops held on current topics in haptics. I had a chance to attend “Softness Perception” which is directly related to my work. My supervisor Prof. Dr. Knut Drewing also had a talk entitled “Different Dimensions of Softness and Their Associated Exploratory Procedures” in this session.

Prof. Knut Drewing giving his talk about Different Dimensions of Softness and Their Associated Exploratory Procedures.

On the other days, talks, demonstrations, posters, & discussion sessions took place. There was a great environment in which you could have the opportunity to get involve in demonstrations and talk to people from different companies and universities during breaks or discussion sessions.

Demonstration session from 3rd day

All in all, throughout my Tokyo visit I got involved in a very different culture, met a lot of people from both industry and research, and most importantly learned how limitless what I can do in research. I would like to thank my supervisors Prof. Dr. Knut Drewing & Dr. Katja Doerschner for their support during my WHC 2019 paper submission and talk preparation.

Science and Industry Museum – Manchester

There is a plethora of benefits in having industry partners involved. The vast amounts of knowledge and hands on experience that can be accessed during the duration of the project.

Working with the Science Museum Group means that our ESRs have access not just to the wealth of knowledge at their secondment institutions but the ability to visit other museums across the UK. Ellen De Korte, currently doing her secondment at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford, visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester.

Science and Industry Museum show

The museum, opened in 1983, is dedicated to the development of science, technology and industry with emphasis on the city’s achievements in these fields.

Inside of the Science and Industry Museum

The daily life of museum secondment – part 2

Written by Ellen De Korte

It is roughly one week until the Lates and the Bradford Science Festival. I am collecting final bits for my stall and testing things out. The big challenge of it all is finding ways to draw people in and keep them long enough in order to get them interested in my research. This is not only about designing my stall, but also how I will take visitors through my objects.

Cameras from the National Science and Media Museum’s handling collection were a major challenge, because they appeared to be more attractive to visitors than the other ordinary objects on my table. It is interesting to see people’s responses to the cameras. Visitors seemed to find cameras from around 1900 strange (and they are), because taking a picture with it is very different from how we take pictures nowadays. On the other hand, the more recent ones (1980’s) were more familiar to older visitors, so the cameras draw people in for two entirely opposing reasons.

Either way, this meant that I had to find a way to get the handling collections objects in, without entirely losing the visitors to them. As soon as visitors were allowed to handle the old cameras, it was hard to get them back on track. Therefore, I tried introducing the cameras later on as a surprise for visitors who lingered a bit longer, which seemed to work much better.

This is one of the many things I am learning on my way to the Lates and the Bradford Science Festival. I think I will learn a lot during the events themselves as well. For now, I will get ready for the big days and enjoy a visit to the museum’s partner in Manchester: the National Science and Industry Museum.

The daily life of museum secondment – part 1

Written by Ellen De Korte

It is two more weeks until the Bradford Science Festival. My collection of objects is now complete and the preparation of my text and study material is almost done. In the meantime, I have also become a STEM-ambassador. STEM is an acronym for the combined subjects of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. A STEM-ambassador is a volunteer who promotes those subjects in various ways. This can include demonstrations at schools, but it means you can also work with teachers in promoting STEM in schools.

As my research topic is part of psychology, it may seem a bit odd that I have become a STEM-ambassador. Yet, there is quite a bit of STEM involved in my job. For example, if I set up a typical experiment, I have to display the materials I want to show on a computer. Not only is the computer itself an obvious piece of STEM, but the images of materials involve quite a bit of mathematics. For a computer an image is a big table of numbers that represent image colours. Unfortunately, computer monitors do not always display the right colour if you give them a specific number. This means that I have to check the colours that my monitor displays with a special device. On top of that, I have to pay attention to the lighting of the materials I use, because this influences the look of materials as well. These little things involve physics and mathematics (light and the transformation of numbers in light to get colours) and this is not even the data collection and analysis yet (there is a lot of mathematics involved in the latter).

I will not bother you any further with the biology that is involved in my subject, because I have to understand the workings of the eye and the brain as well. Or how our research findings might be used for design of materials (engineering). All I hope, is that it has become clear that STEM is a big part of my job and our daily lives.  

A Study in Gloss

Secondment review by Sina Mehraeen

One’s ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to interpret Nature
                                                                                     ― Arthur Conan Doyle

Here are the chronicles of my adventures during my secondment at the Department of Psychology, University of Southampton, under the supervision of Prof. Wendy Adams and Prof. Marc Ernst.

The Objectives of the trip:

  1. Gain an understanding of the interaction between illumination and material perception, including analysis of spherical high dynamic range natural illumination environments.
  2. Gain experience of working in a Psychology department in another EU country.

To begin at the beginning, I was excited to work with Wendy and to be exposed to the cool research she does on material perception, illumination environments and rendering virtual objects.  I had also never been to the UK, and was eager to get a glimpse of that part of the world.

The plan was twofold; first, I would conduct a pilot study on the interaction between illumination and gloss and how gloss might affect the way we manipulate a physical object. At the same time, I would try to learn as much as possible on rendering virtual objects in natural illumination environments and learn the statistics involved.

Sample HDR illumination environment sourced from the Southampton-York Natural Scenes (SYNS) Dataset. The SYNS dataset is a collection of high definition images (and their relevant metadata) from around 100 rural and urban locations.

After a short trip to a metal supermarket, we got some nice aluminum box pipes which we would use as our physical stimuli. The main question we were seeking to address with these physical objects is whether their glossiness affects the way people handle them. This is in line with previous studies looking at the relationship between gloss and touch (Kerrigan, Adams, & Graf, 2010 ; Adams, Kerrigan & Graf, 2016).

Aluminum box pipe

Once the objects were cleaned and nicely polished, we started testing out a suitable experimental setup. This proved more challenging than expected due to the unpredictable nature of natural lighting. In order to get the desired outcome, we really had to control the angle and intensity of illumination so using natural lighting was out of the question. We also tested various coatings to get the objects to be as glossy as possible. Currently, we have made some tweaks to the set up and we are in the process of data collection; so more info coming soon.

On the side and as a secondary objective, I began learning the basics of Blender to generate virtual objects and to import them as .obj files into Octane Render. Octane is fast rendering engine which allows for easy manipulation of minute elements which make up a scene, e.g. material qualities an object might possess and how those certain qualities (e.g. surface reflectance) interact with light. Once we had set those parameters, we placed them in a natural illumination environment and got something that looked like this:

A virtual object placed in a natural illumination environment

To conclude, I’d like to thank Wendy, Marc and Erich for their continuous support during my stay and also Davide and Paul for helping me with the setup. I’d also like to say a big thanks to everyone I had the good fortune of meeting at the Department of Psychology in Soton; for showing me around town and volunteering to participate in the experiment. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

Cheerio!