2019-01564 - PhD Position F/M Dexterous Interaction in Virtual Reality using High-Density Electrotactile Feedback
Le descriptif de l’offre ci-dessous est en Anglais

Type de contrat : CDD de la fonction publique

Niveau de diplôme exigé : Bac + 5 ou équivalent

Autre diplôme apprécié : Master on Computer Science or equivalent

Fonction : Doctorant

A propos du centre ou de la direction fonctionnelle

Inria, the French national research institute for the digital sciences, promotes scientific excellence and technology transfer to maximise its impact.
It employs 2,400 people. Its 200 agile project teams, generally with academic partners, involve more than 3,000 scientists in meeting the challenges of computer science and mathematics, often at the interface of other disciplines.
Inria works with many companies and has assisted in the creation of over 160 startups.
It strives to meet the challenges of the digital transformation of science, society and the economy.

Contexte et atouts du poste

This PhD position is framed under the EU H2020 ICT 25 TACTILITY project. Tactility aims at creating a new generation of smart electrotactile systems able to adapt to the user, application scenarios, and use conditions. Such electrotactile interfaces will provide high-density stimulation for delivering natural-like sensations. The ability to generate localized tactile feedback will change the way we interact with virtual reality content. Users will be able to feel the physical properties of virtual objects (e.g., roughness, stiffness) supporting a wide variety of natural interactions and information retrieval. Such technology will allow the design of algorithms for real-time rendering of high-fidelity electrotactile stimuli to the user. One of the main hypothesis of Tactility is that it is possible to improve the feeling of immersion and embodiment by leveraging a multimodal approach, i.e., by integrating electrotactile stimuli with visual and auditory information. TACTILITY is based on a highly interdisciplinary approach. Experts from fields such as computer science, electrical/electronic engineering, psychology and neuroscience are involved.

The PhD candidate will join the Inria’s Hybrid team (https://team.inria.fr/hybrid), internationally recognized in the virtual reality and haptic research fields. Currently, the team is composed by more than 30 members working in topics related to virtual reality, augmented reality, physical simulation, haptics and human computer interaction.

Mission confiée

Haptic devices commonly used in virtual reality are unfit for precise dexterous manipulation. As of today, the only systems capable of doing so are cumbersome and costly multi-finger devices such as active exoskeletons. Alternatively, the use of tactile feedback could allow the user to gather additional information from the virtual environment. Such information can be used for exploratory purposes (e.g., feel a soft or a bumpy surface) or for interaction purposes (e.g., enable the precise and realistic grasping of a virtual object [1,2]). Other research groups have tried to add haptic feedback to interfaces based on hand tracking by developing their own haptic displays. Technologies based on ultrasound [3, 4], air streams [5], and pin-matrix [6] allow interaction with a bare hand, but they are too complex to scale to large workspaces. The main goal of this PhD is to take advantage of a new generation of electro tactile globes in order to enable dexterous manipulation in virtual reality.


Principales activités

The first objective is to create novel interaction methods leveraging electrotactile feedback to provide natural user interfaces (NUIs). The ability to provide high-density localized tactile feedback to the user’s hand will enable an increased awareness of the actions performed supporting precise and complex dexterous manipulations of virtual objects. In addition, to provide localized contact feedback, we will investigate how electrotactile feedback can be modulated to increase the range of tactile sensations that can be elicited. Immersion and interaction are key components in any VR experience, with several factors that define the grade of this immersion. So far, these have been characterized only in scenarios with no or crude tactile feedback [7, 8]. The technology proposed in Tactility will allow complex, compelling, and accurately-timed tactile feedback.

However, grasping and dexterous virtual object manipulation are complex tasks that require appropriate models of hand and contact mechanics to be simulated in real time. The complexity of the human hand requires the use of simplifications during physical simulation, which can generate unrealistic interactions, breaking the user’s immersion. Existing methods have focused on hand interactions involving a reduced number of fingers [9] or computationally expensive for bimanual interactions [10]. The second objective is to push forward the state of the art to create efficient and realistic hand simulation methods able to deliver the required end-to-end latency. We envision the design of simplified models able to deliver realistic interactions. The proposed models will have to match the distribution of the electrotactile pads and fit their specifications. In addition, hand-object interpenetration, where a real hand sinks into virtual objects due to the lack of real physical constraints, is a fundamental problem for hand-based interactions [11]. Interpenetration contributes to artifacts such as a “sticking object,” when exaggerated finger motions are required for release, degrading release performance and subjective experience and contributing to fatigue. Current methods for hand-object interpenetrations mainly address systems without haptic feedback or consider only the use of low-density vibro-tactile gloves. In addition to propose novel hand simulation methods, the PhD candidate will have to re-assess existing methods to handle hand-object interpenetrations to identify and improve the most suitable ones for providing increased immersion and user experience.

Finally, due to the complementarity of both objectives, an iterative design process will be employed. In particular, the interaction process is tightly coupled to a perception-action loop. In such context, the user’s perception of the visual and tactile stimuli would strongly influence/drive his/her interactions. Thus, formal evaluations of the designed systems would be required to assess the suitability of the designed interactions.


[1] S. Lederman and R. Klatzky, “Extracting object properties through haptic exploration,” Acta psychologica, vol. 84, no. 1, pp. 29-40, 1993.

[2] T. Feix, J. Romero, H. B. Schmiedmayer, A. M. Dollar and D. Kragic, “The grasp taxonomy of human grasp types,” IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 66-77, 2016.

[3] T. Carter, S. Seah, B. Long, B. Drinkwater and S. Subramanian, “UltraHaptics: multi-point mid-air haptic feedback for touch surfaces,” in Proceedings of the 26th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology, 2013.

[4] T. Hoshi, M. Takahashi, T. Iwamoto and H. Shinoda, “Noncontact tactile display based on radiation pressure of airborne ultrasound,” IEEE Transactions on Haptics, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 155-165, 2010.

[5] R. Sodhi, I. Poupyrev, M. Glisson and A. Israr, “AIREAL: interactive tactile experiences in free air,” ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG), vol. 32, no. 4, p. 134, 2013.

[6] M. Shimojo, M. Shinohara and Y. Fukui, “Human shape recognition performance for 3D tactile display,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics-Part A: Systems and Humans, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 637-644, 1999

[7] K. Kilteni, A. Maselli, K. Kording and M. Slater, “Over my fake body: body ownership illusions for studying the multisensory basis of own-body perception,” Frontiers in human neuroscience, vol. 9, p. 141, 2015.

[8] E. Ofek and M. Reiner, “A subjective touch to presence: Haptic performance, emotions and subjective significance,” in Proceedings of 10th international workshop on presence, 2007.

[9] A. Talvas, M. Marchal, C. Duriez and M. Otaduy, “Aggregate constraints for virtual manipulation with soft fingers,” IEEE transactions on visualization and computer graphics, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 452-461, 2015.

[10] M. Verschaar, D. Lobo and M. Otaduy, “Soft Hand Simulation for Smooth and Robust Natural Interaction,” in 2018 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR), 2018.

[11] M. Prachyabrued and C. Borst, “Design and evaluation of visual interpenetration cues in virtual grasping,” IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 1718-1731, 2016.


The candidate must have a master degree (or equivalent), with a preference in virtual reality or computer graphics. In addition, the candidate should be comfortable with as much following items as possible:

  • Background in computer graphics and physical simulation.
  • Experience in 3D/VR applications (e.g. Unity3D).
  • Experience in evaluation methods and controlled users studies.
  • Good knowledge in programming languages.
  • Good spoken and written English.
  • Good communication skills. This PhD is framed under a larger project, thus the candidate would have to interact with other members of the project and assist to the project meetings.


  • Subsidized meals
  • Partial reimbursement of public transport costs


Monthly gross salary amounting to 1 982 euros for the first and second years and 2 085 euros for the third year