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Chapter 4:
Haptic Devices for Virtual Reality, Telepresence, and Human-Assistive Robotics
Biomimetic systems attempt to copy the form or the behavior of biological systems to create efficient machines and processes. Since nature has had millions upon millions of years to perfect these systems, it is logical to learn from them when designing machines and processes. Another way to use the tools that nature has built is to design machines that specifically incorporate a human into the system. These biologically incorporated systems extend the capabilities of machines by adding a human component, or extend the abilities of humans with the assistance of human-made devices. The interfaces used to connect these human and machine systems together are the human senses. These interface systems can truly be called biomimetic systems in that they are designed to respond to, or mimic, the reactions and sensations of a biological system, namely the human operator. Various systems currently exist that provide information to the human senses of sight and hearing. Audio and video systems have been perfected over many decades so that it is now possible for a user to wear small devices such as goggles and earphones that allow a user to see and hear various forms of information. Systems also currently exist, and others are being further developed, that interface with a third human sense, the sense of touch. These systems are called haptic systems or simply haptics. The inclusion of haptic systems such as the ones presented in the following sections allows for the creation of fully immersive environments that can provide a user with the three major inputs of visual, auditory, and haptic information. These systems can be used for virtual reality and telepresence applications. The ability to generate visual, auditory, and haptic stimuli makes it possible to accurately generate almost any environment that is desired in a believable and immersive manner.
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