San Francisco – Katherine J. Kuchenbecker, Director of the Haptic Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS), is leading the organizing committee of the 2018 IEEE Haptics Symposium, which is taking place from March 25 to 28 in San Francisco. Founded in 1992, the IEEE Haptics Symposium is a vibrant interdisciplinary forum where engineers, scientists, psychophysicists, and designers come together to share advances, spark new collaborations, and envision a future that benefits from rich physical interactions between humans and computers, generated through haptic (force and tactile) devices.
For Kuchenbecker, Haptics Symposium is a very special event. “It was always my dream to help run this amazing festival of science and research in haptics”, says Kuchenbecker with a smile. “This conference is the one where I gave my first big talk. That was in 2003, when Haptics Symposium was held in Chicago. I was so nervous something would go wrong, like my slides wouldn’t work, but everything went well. It was a good start for me to have successfully presented some of my first research as a PhD student in this top scientific forum.”
2018 marks the second time Kuchenbecker is heading the organizing team of the conference. This year, she shares the co-chair duties with Gregory Gerling, Professor of Systems and Information as well as Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, USA. “We chose San Francisco for our conference because the Bay Area is such a hot bed of technology, with Silicon Valley and Stanford University close by. Several professors at Stanford do research in haptics, and that is where I earned my own PhD. Many alumni from my group have moved here to work at top technology companies like Apple and Intuitive Surgical,” says Kuchenbecker.
The four-day conference is being held in the Westin St. Francis, an historic hotel right in the center of San Francisco on Union Square, a main tourist attraction in this vibrant Californian city.
The first day focused on “Cross-cutting Challenges” or “CCC,” with a morning session devoted to wearable interfaces and the afternoon session on surface haptics. “For me workshops and tutorials were often the highlight of the conference, because you got to hear top professors talk, but you had to choose which of the many parallel sessions to join, and many people didn’t participate because these session weren’t part of the main conference. The new Cross-cutting Challenges formal brings everyone together into two carefully curated mega-workshops on particularly hot topics in our research field. We created CCCs to be interdisciplinary; the sessions should not be interesting just for computer scientists or engineers or neuroscientists. They have to be cross cutting, bringing in people from many disciplines to present an arch of research that spans decades and can help lead our field into the future.”
In the main conference, starting the second day, the focus will be on oral sessions, with 57 peer-reviewed archival technical papers being presented orally, plus poster sessions showcasing short Work-in-Progress (WIP) papers and articles that were recently published in the IEEE Transactions on Haptics (ToH). For many attendees, the highlight of Haptics Symposium is the afternoon time where you can try hands-on demonstrations from labs around the world and exhibits by renowned companies such as Oculus, the maker of the Oculus Rift immersive VR headset. On the fourth day, 100 conference attendees will take part in lab tours at Stanford University.
“The IEEE Haptics Symposium is a big social event as well as a scientific forum. The interaction of the participants is a key component that is very important to us. I’m especially excited because many of the students and postdocs who work with me at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems will be joining the conference, as well as alumni from my group who are now faculty members themselves. I can’t wait to see them presenting their latest findings and talking with other leading researchers from around the world!”
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a US-based non-profit technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. IEEE and its members inspire a global community through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and many professional and educational activities. The IEEE Haptics Symposium 2018 is one of the many conferences held under the IEEE umbrella.
Dr. Katherine J. Kuchenbecker is a world-renowned researcher in haptics. Her team focuses on inventing new haptic interfaces, which enable a user to touch virtual and distant objects as though they were real and within reach, as well as haptic sensing systems, which allow robots to physically interact with objects and people.
Katherine J. Kuchenbecker received her PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in California, USA, in 2006. After a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, she became the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) in Philadelphia, USA. She was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2013, when she also received a secondary appointment in the Penn Department of Computer and Information Science. Since January of 2017, she has been one of seven directors at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.