Multimedia Fundamentals, Volume I: Media Coding and Content Analysis

By Rolf Steinmetz and Klara Nahrstedt

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Touch in Virtual Environments: Haptics and the Design of Interactive Systems was published last month as the inaugural title of IMSC Press, a partnership with Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference (PTR).

The book is an outgrowth of a February 2001 haptics conference initiated and co-sponsored by IMSC that attracted nearly 80 investigators from around the world. Haptics, which comes from the ancient Greek word "haptikos," meaning "to grasp or perceive," is an innovative and fast-emerging field of touch-based technology.

Many of the volume's chapters were first presented as papers at the conference, which was also co-sponsored by USC's Annenberg School for Communication and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Control Systems Society. The book's editors are Dr. Margaret McLaughlin, the principal investigator in IMSC's haptics work and Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School; Dr. Joao Hespanha, formerly an IMSC key investigator on haptics and now at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Dr. Gaurav Sukhatme, an IMSC key investigator on haptics and Assistant Professor of Computer Science.

Dr. McLaughlin said Touch in Virtual Environments presents the full range of haptics research, including system control hardware, interface design, compression, capture of data, human factors, and applications.

She pointed out that haptics researchers investigate the sensation of shape and texture an observer feels when exploring a virtual object, such as a 3D model of a tool, instrument or art object.

She said researchers are interested in developing, refining, and testing haptic devices and interfaces and applying findings from psychological studies of human touch to the simulation of the tactile sensation in virtual environments.

She also said haptics is starting to have an impact on the design of immersive systems and stressed the book's contributors are working at the leading edge of engineering science.

Haptics research at IMSC includes the development of algorithms for force control; compression of haptic data; strategies for the description, storage, and retrieval of haptic data; integration of haptics into multimodal interfaces; haptic rendering of scientific data; and the psychophysics of mutual touch in immersive environments.

Dr. McLaughlin said the book details several promising applications, including surgical simulation and medical training, scientific visualization, painting, sculpting, computer-assisted design, and military training and simulation.

Contributors are affiliated with top programs in the haptics field in addition to the program at IMSC, including those at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of North Carolina, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Touch in Virtual Environments is available from Prentice Hall PTR and can be ordered from its Web site at