Haptic feature extraction

John F. Soechting, Weilai Song, Martha Flanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This study examined the process by which the shape of a haptically explored object is synthesized from the geometric characteristics of simpler constituent elements, such as arcs and ellipses. Subjects traced the outlines of virtual objects by means of whole arm movements. Each object consisted of the union of a large central ellipse and two smaller circles, extending upward and outward from the top left and right sides of the base. The sizes of the two circles and the eccentricity of the elliptical base were varied. After exploring the object's contour in the absence of vision, subjects reproduced the sensed shape by means of freehand drawing. Speed and force were modulated during the exploratory phase in a manner that suggested that subjects reacted to rather than predicted changes in curvature. Also, subjects typically devoted more time to exploring the part of the contour encompassing the two smaller circles. During drawing, individual features of the explored shape were reproduced with varying degrees of fidelity. Aspects related to the size and location of the smaller circles were reproduced better than was the eccentricity of the ellipse forming the base. Since subjects spent proportionally less time exploring the base, these results suggest that subjects selectively focused attention to regions of high spatial contrast and that the exploratory strategy introduced distortions in the haptically sensed shapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1180
Number of pages13
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH Grant NS-15018. We thank Ajay Shrestha for his assistance with some of the experiments.


  • Arm movements
  • Drawing
  • Haptic exploration
  • Human
  • Movement sequences
  • Somatosensory


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