Saturday, September 27, 2008

Interactive technology could help students feel what can't be seen


( - WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Equations or graphs can explain what happens when atoms bump into each other, but a technology called haptics could help students know how it feels.
A Purdue University researcher says haptic, or force-feedback, technology can be used in a variety of classroom subjects, especially in the sciences.
Haptics involves the use of devices, much like joysticks, that allow the user to scan over objects or surfaces and feel the interaction forces. The device measures the position of the tip of the joystick and feeds it to a computer program containing the dimensions of virtual objects, which graphically displays the object on a 3-D monitor. The program uses computer algorithms to calculate the interaction forces between the joystick tip and the virtual objects based on the object's physical properties and feeds that sensation back to the user, just as if the person were touching the objects in real life.
"It's hard to teach these topics when students can't see or feel what they are studying," said Gary Bertoline, associate dean for graduate programs and research in Purdue's College of Technology. "Through various devices that simulate physical properties, haptics allows you to feel things you can't see."


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