The Virtual Object and Haptic Interfaces

An interdisciplinary event led by: Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Margaret Cox, David Prytherch and Jonathan P. San Diego

Council Room, King’s College London, Strand
23 October 2013, 2-5pm

Part of the King’s Arts & Humanities Festival 2013: Being | Human. Presented by Department of Digital Humanities

This event is free and open to all but booking is required.

It may not be immediately obvious what museum objects, such as sculpture, may have in common with drilling teeth; or how eighteenth-century poetry may help with describing experience of touch, virtually simulated through the use of computers; or why an artist and haptic computer-interface specialist is helping with research into dementia. This interdisciplinary event brings together experts in and users of machine haptics and explores the potential of 3D imaging and haptic technologies in research, teaching and learning across a variety of disciplines. The panel will debate how we can reciprocally stimulate new ideas and approaches to historical research, medical sciences, the creative arts and contemporary museum education. The session will include brief presentations, demonstrations and general discussion. Those with no previous experience of computer haptics will have the opportunity to experience this technology first hand, and develop critical appreciation of perceptual processes involved.

Simulating touch in a virtual environment is not straightforward. It requires, among other things, a good understanding of the human touch which varies from one individual to another and how to represent the consequences of human tactile actions. Can this perceptual, emotional and cultural experience be satisfactorily replicated virtually? What human and technological considerations are the most challenging?


Anna Bentkowska-Kafel PhD (bentkowska.wordpress.com) is a freelance art historian and part-time lecturer in Digital Art History in the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. Her research interests include the use of 3D electronic imaging in documentation, representation and scholarly interpretation of art and architecture. She has been a committee member and editor for Computers and the History of Art (CHArt) since 1999. Her most recent international project in this area is the COST Action Colour and Space in Cultural Heritage (www.cosch.info). She is a co-editor and contributor to Paradata and Transparency in Historical Visualization (Ashgate, 2012).

Margaret Josephine Cox OBE OBE is Professor of Information Technology in Education in the Dental Institute and the Department for Education and Professional Studies, King’s College London and Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. For more than 40 years she has been developing educational software and researching the impact of IT on teaching and learning in all education sectors. Between 2007 and 2012 she lead a £1.5m interdisciplinary project (www.haptel.kcl.ac.uk), funded by the UK ESRC and EPSRC, to develop and evaluate the use of haptics in dental education, which has won many awards for excellence in innovation in education. She authored many software and book titles and published over 150 articles on IT in Education.

David Prytherch PhD, FGE, is Senior Research Fellow in Haptics and Computer Interface Design for Crafts in the User-lab, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. He has 30 years professional experience as a freelance glass engraver/sculptor and is a Fellow of the Guild of Glass Engravers. His research interests include haptic (tacit) learning and teaching, the role of haptics in skill development, particularly in the arts, haptic implications in activity satisfaction and motivation, and issues surrounding tool use and material embodiment with regard to computer interface systems. A particular interest lies in the development of inclusive interface systems that facilitate transparent access to creative processes for people with physical disabilities.

Jonathan P. San Diego PhD is a Senior Research Officer in Learning Technology and Haptics at King’s College London, United Kingdom. He also leads the KCL Dental Institute Informatics and Technology Enhanced Learning Hub. His main research interests are examining how representations influence cognition, reasoning and learning; which involves examining how interactions with computer-based representations can support strategies in teaching, learning and reasoning, and how new technologies affect students’ understanding and knowledge. He is building evidence to support this research by studying digital data and their impact on learning from haptic interactions; eye-movements; biometric and physiological measures; computer logs; and web and learning analytics. Jonathan has been involved with projects on haptics in education, including the award-winning hapTEL project (2007 to 2012) which focuses on enhancing learners’ 3D perceptions, manipulations and skills, and to relate these to concepts needed in learning clinical skills.