Getting a Grip on the Visual Control Action
Over the years, biology has provided engineering with some useful lessons in design. The human hand is an excellent example.
A remarkable piece of engineering, the human hand can reach out and grasp objects with exquisite precision—far more precision than any robotic hand. One of the factors that makes this possible is our keen sense of sight.
Dr. Mel Goodale, Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience, is studying the different kinds of information used by the human visual system to guide the hand as it reaches out and grasps an object—as well as how previous experience with an object interacts with current visual information.
For this research, Goodale and his research team use sensitive infra-red cameras to track tiny infra-red lights that have been attached to the fingertips, hand, and wrist. They use the data from these cameras to reconstruct the trajectory of the hand and fingers as the grasping movement unfolds. Goodale also uses brain imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI) to explore how the brain calculates the sizes and locations of the objects being grasped.
This work is not only providing basic information about how vision is used to control the human hand, but is also contributing to the design of better systems for controlling robot hands.