The haptic underwater robotics spinoff BluHaptics has received an NSF Phase II Small Business Innovative Research grant. The $747,179 grant will fund the company’s remotely operated vehicle software. Geekwire profiled the company and its research in an online article. More information can also be found on the BluHaptics website.
Over the last couple months the BRL has hosted some great summer researchers. We hosted several undergraduate and two local high school teachers who worked side-by-side BRL graduate students and faculty on advancing some of the lab’s ongoing projects. The topics that they worked on included from the neuroethics of DBS for depression, new password methods, and including haptic feedback into BCI tasks. They all produced excellent work over the summer and we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight their accomplishments here. A big thanks goes out to our summer researchers for dedicating so much time towards advancing the lab’s research!
Hale Soloff, an undergraduate neuroscience research student from Ursinus College, joined the Neuroethics thrust at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program (more information here). He teamed up with the BioRobotics Laboratory to analyze ethical issues surrounding the use of new closed-loop deep brain stimulation (DBS) technology for the treatment of depression.
Acknowledging a gap in the literature of how deep brain stimulation affects moral understanding, Hale tackled questions of authority and responsibility; can someone with DBS be held accountable for all of their actions, or does the device exert undue influence on behavior, attitudes, and decision making? Does the device take away its user’s capacity for consent and free will, or does it restore that capacity which the depression took away? How much control should patients with depression have over their own DBS, and thereby their own emotions? Is there such a thing as the “correct” level of happiness, and does the patient, clinician, policy maker, DBS engineer, or somebody else get to make that decision? And finally, how does a closed-loop stimulator, which can record and analyze brain activity to adjust stimulation accordingly, change the answers to these questions? Hale was guided by mentor Tim Brown and PI Sara Goering in studying the moral discussions surrounding open-loop DBS, and by working closely with Dr. Howard Chizeck and the BioRobotics Lab to learn more about closed-loop DBS he raised new relevant questions as to how this technology affects its users and those around them.
Hale says about his research, “The way the public and media perceive new medical technologies like closed-loop DBS is very important. Exploring these questions is the first step to educating future patients, clinicians, and lawmakers about how these devices work and affect us.”
Two local high school teachers went back to school this summer in the BioRobotics Lab. Larry Bencivengo, a veteran Biology teacher from Mercer Island High School, and Paul Zimmer, who teaches Chemistry at South Kitsap high school, spent 7 weeks in the BRL as part of CSNE’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. Bencivengo and Zimmer were part of a cohort of 6 teachers who worked part time in one of the labs associated with CSNE while also developing curriculum which they will pilot in their classrooms this school year. Read more about the CSNE RET Program here.
The task that these two “teacher-students” took on relates to ongoing research in the BRL, led by doctoral candidates Jeffrey Herron and Margaret Thompson, to train patients to gain greater control of BCIs such as Deep Brain Stimulators used to suppress Parkinsonian tremors. Zimmer and Bencivengo attempted to incorporate haptic feedback into a BCI training program developed by Herron and Thompson by using the Phantom Omni haptic mouse. They were successful in learning to incorporate haptic properties into Unity, the game development platform that Thompson and Herron used to develop the current version of the BCI training program. The virtual sense of touch provided by the Phantom Omni promises to improve patient performance in BCI training. Thanks to the research at BRL, these training programs may soon be used to help patients learn to control a computer mouse or other external device with their BCIs, and may eventually allow patients to exert volitional control of their DBS devices.
Zimmer traveled two hours each way back and forth from his home in Port Orchard in order to participate in the RET program. Bencivengo said, “The past 7 weeks working in the BRL have been among the most exiting and challenging of my teaching career – I can’t wait to get back into the classroom this fall to share all of the amazing things that I learned this summer! I can’t express adequate thanks to Dr. Chizeck and all of the amazing people at the CSNE and BRL for this incredible opportunity!” You can read more about our ongoing closed-loop DBS and BCI work here.
Jiwei Wang, a CoMotion Mary Gates Scholar from the University of Washington, worked in the BioRobotics Laboratory as an intern (more information here) . He worked with Junjie Yan and Jiang Shayne on the Haptic Passwords project, in which they built an app using the haptic password system that can be applied to the Windows platform.
They realized that the security level of the interactions between human users and cyber systems is becoming more and more important in many areas. The traditional way of identifying a user is to utilize the alphanumerical passwords, which is easy to realize but hard to memorize and vulnerable to various kinds of attack. To enhance the security performance of corresponding systems, we take the advantage of the haptic interaction technique and apply it to the mobile app development. Previous studies show that how a person interacts with haptic interface is unique and can be used as identification and authentication purpose. We applied this technique to different platforms and found that the Surface Pro 3 was the best suitable device. One of the key reasons was that its pen, the N-trig digitizer, provided us with its API and made it easier to transfer data to the haptic password system. By developing an app on a writable windows tablet, we successfully capture ink data and pointer properties such as pressure and orientation. Then, we invited subjects to take specific tests, and after data analysis, we found that this system is solid and secure because of its good performance and forgery attack resistance. Additionally, this system is so user friendly that it not only is easy to learn, but also provides a complex but intuitive way of creating signature passwords. This haptic interaction technique can be applied to those pressure sensitive devices, such as tablets and signature touch screens in the public. This could provide a much safer way of authorizing credit card transaction permission and reducing transaction fraud.
As a full-time intern, Jiwei spent a lot of time in the BioRobotics Lab. Jiwei said, “This lab is amazing! People are all really professional on their projects and are always willing to help. Many many thanks to Dr. Chizeck’s patience and help! This is my best summer research experience and I’m looking forward to work with all of you in the future!”
The BioRobotics Lab has had four papers accepted to the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Hamburg, Germany this coming Fall. We’re looking forward to presenting our recent research and contributions to the robotics field. The 2015 ICRA papers authored by BRL researchers are:
“Improving Position Precision of a Servo-Controlled Elastic Cable Driven Surgical Robot Using Unscented Kalman Filter” by Mohammad Haghighipanah, Yangming Li, Muneaki Miyasaka, and Blake Hannaford.
“Path Planning for Semi-automated Simulated Robotic Neurosurgery” by Danying Hu, Yuanzheng Gong, Blake Hannaford, and Eric J. Seibel.
“Measurement of the Cable-Pulley Coulomb and Viscous Friction for a Cable-Driven Surgical Robotic System” by Muneaki Miyasaka, Joseph Matheson, Andrew Lewis, and Blake Hannaford.
“Haptic Passwords” by Junjie Yan, Kevin Huang, Tamara Bonaci, and Howard J. Chizeck.
Additionally, incoming EE Professor Sam Burden, who will be joining the BRL, has also coauthored a paper to be presented at IROS:
“Personalized Kinematics for Human–Robot Collaborative Manipulation” by Aaron M. Bestick, Samuel A. Burden, Giorgia Willits, Nikhil Naikal , S. Shankar Sastry, and Ruzena Bajcsy.
For the second year in a row, Kevin Huang of the BRL has been helping with the UW Math Academy Summer Program. The Math Academy offers a free summer program to help Washington State high school students develop key math, engineering and problem solving skills. The program targets specifically underrepresented minorities. As part of the program, students participate in a three-day workshop, called a Focus Group. For this, Kevin has been a teacher and mentor in a small-scale design project focusing on basic information about haptics and haptic enabled systems. By the end of the program, the students receive a crash-course in the mechanisms by which humans sense touch, design an experiment to interrogate a person’s two-point threshold, and also learn to program a one degree-of-freedom haptic device. The students work to acquire key skills, such as experimental design, analysis, programming and teamwork skills necessary to succeed in engineering related fields. Read more about the UW Math Academy here.
Today Geekwire posted an article highlighting BluHaptics, a BRL-affiliated start-up in Seattle. Check out the full article here–
This last Sunday evening, members of the UW BRL attended the IEEE Seattle Section’s 110th Anniversary Celebration event at the Seattle Pacific Center. Senator Maria Cantwell joined regional IEEE members to celebrate this impressive anniversary. Graduate student researchers Jeffrey Herron and Kevin Huang brought demos to the event to showcase ongoing research from the UW BioRobotics Lab.
A Huffington Post article published today overviews the recent Smart America Challenge that the BRL participated in. The UW BioRobotics lab worked with a team of researchers and engineers from multiple institutions to demonstrate a new approach to disaster response. Check out the full article here
This video was produced and posted by NSF, check out their news release here
BRL researchers Kevin Huang, Fredrik Ryden and Howard Chizeck all made an appearance at the Smart America Expo in Washington DC this week. They were showing off a technologies developed to aid disaster and emergency response. The work was done as a part of the Smart America Challenge with collaborators from Boeing, MathWorks, MIT Media Lab, National Instruments, North Carolina State University, University of North Texas and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Our partners in the Smart America Challenge created these video to showcase the technologies we are bringing together to improve disaster response!
Post-doc Fredrik Ryden shows off some of the work he’s been doing with a Kuka robot.