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A novel sensory substitution technique is presented. Kinesthetic and cutaneous force feedback are substituted by cutaneous feedback (CF) 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 force feedback. The pattern generated using the cutaneous devices can be thought as a subtraction between the complete haptic feedback (HF) 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 force 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 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 (VF).
Date of Publication: Fourth Quarter 2012