Human vs. robotic tactile sensing: Detecting lumps in soft tissue

James C. Gwilliam, Zachary Pezzementi, Erica Jantho, Allison M. Okamura, Steven Hsiao

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Humans can localize lumps in soft tissue using the distributed tactile feedback and processing afforded by the fingers and brain. This task becomes extremely difficult when the fingers are not in direct contact with the tissue, such as in laparoscopic or robot-assisted procedures. Tactile sensors have been proposed to characterize and detect lumps in robot-assisted palpation. In this work, we compare the performance of a capacitive tactile sensor with that of the human finger. We evaluate the response of the sensor as it pertains to robot-assisted palpation and compare the sensor performance to that of human subjects performing an equivalent task on the same set of artificial tissue models. Furthermore, we investigate the effects of various tissue parameters (lump size, lump depth, and surrounding tissue stiffness) on the performance of both the human finger and the tactile sensor. Using signal detection theory for determining tactile sensor lump detection thresholds, the tactile sensor outperforms the human finger in a palpation task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2010
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
Event2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2010 - Waltham, MA, United States
Duration: Mar 25 2010Mar 26 2010

Publication series

Name2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2010


Other2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium, HAPTICS 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWaltham, MA


  • H.1.2 [models and principles]: user/machine systems - human information processing
  • H.5.2 [information interfaces and presentation]: user interfaces - haptic I/O
  • I.5.2 [pattern recognition]: design methodology - classifier design and evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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