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E. Battaglia, M. Bianchi, M. L. D'Angelo, M. D'Imperio, F. Cannella, E. P. Scilingo, A. Bicchi: "A Finite Element Model of Tactile Flow for Softness Perception", EMBC 2015

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Touch is an extremely dynamic sense. To take into account this aspect, it has been hypothesized that there are mechanisms in the brain that specialize in processing dynamic tactile stimuli, in a way not too dissimilar from what happens for optical flow in dynamic vision. The concept of tactile flow, related to the rate of expansion of isostrain volumes in the human fingerpad, was used to explain some perceptual illusions as well as mechanisms of human softness perception. In this paper we describe a computational model of tactile flow, and apply it to a finite element model of interaction between deformable bodies. The shape and material properties of the bodies are modeled from those of a human fingertip interacting with specimens with different softness properties. Results show that the rate of expansion of isostrain volumes can be used to discriminate different materials in terms of their softness characteristics.