Haptic Communications

Our paper titled "Haptic Communications" is now published in the Proceedings of the IEEE (Volume 100, Issue 4)

Audiovisual communications is at the core of multimedia systems that allow users to interact across distances. It is common understanding that both audio and video are required for high-quality interaction. While audiovisual information provides a user with a satisfactory impression of being present in a remote environment, physical interaction and manipulation is not supported. True immersion into a distant environment and efficient distributed collaboration require the ability to physically interact with remote objects and to literally get in touch with other people. Touching and manipulating objects remotely becomes possible if we augment traditional audiovisual communications by the haptic modality. Haptic communications is a relatively young field of research that has the potential to substantially improve human-human and human-machine interaction. In this paper, we discuss the state-of-the-art in haptic communications both from psychophysical and technical points of view. From a human perception point of view, we mainly focus on the multimodal integration of video and haptics and the improved performance that can be achieved when combining them. We also discuss how the human adapts to discrepancies and synchronization errors between different modalities, a research area which is typically referred to as perceptual learning. From a technical perspective, we address perceptual coding of haptic information and the transmission of haptic data streams over resource-constrained and potentially lossy networks in the presence of unpredictable and time-varying communication delays. In this context, we also discuss the need for objective quality metrics for haptic communication. Throughout the paper, we stress the fact that haptic communications is not meant as a replacement of traditional audiovisual communications but rather as an additional dimension for telepresence that will allow us to advance in our quest for truly immersive communication.