Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, IT
Massimo Bergamasco is Professor of Theory of Mechanisms and Machines at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy. His research activity deals with the study and development of haptic interfaces and wearable robots for the control of the interaction between humans and Virtual Environments. His present research is focused on general aspects of perception and cognitive processes in the field of embodiment and social perception. He has been the founder of the Perceptual Robotics Laboratory (www. percro.org) of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna.
Conceived in 1993 as a technological installation for art museums, the Museum of Pure Form can be considered now in a broader sense as an innovative research framework for studying haptic perception in Immersive Virtual Environments. Humans succeed to acquire and recognize physical properties of objects, such as 3D shape, surface texture, hardness, etc., by controlling hand exploration in the reachable physical environment, usually named as the peripersonal space. When the same exploration tasks are accomplished in Virtual Environments, the human subject is provided with an interface system, e.g. haptic interface, allowing natural movements of the hand and, at the same time, capable of generating adequate sensory stimuli. The contact with virtual objects is perceived by the human subject as a constraint to the hand movements and while local object features are replicated by tactile effectors, the perception of the 3D shape of the object is obtained as a dynamic process of integration among local contact data, proprioceptive sensation of hand movement and cognitive processes of object recognition. The presentation deals with the description of the technological components involved in the design of the Museum of Pure Form. Examples of exploratory procedures for the haptic detection of the shape of virtual objects are provided both in the context of art museums and for general aspects of localizing and perceiving virtual objects and their properties.