2022-04826 - PhD Position F/M Design of haptic feedback using innovative shapeable materials
Le descriptif de l’offre ci-dessous est en Anglais

Type de contrat : CDD

Niveau de diplôme exigé : Bac + 5 ou équivalent

Fonction : Doctorant

A propos du centre ou de la direction fonctionnelle

The Inria Rennes - Bretagne Atlantique Centre is one of Inria's eight centres and has more than thirty research teams. The Inria Center is a major and recognized player in the field of digital sciences. It is at the heart of a rich R&D and innovation ecosystem: highly innovative PMEs, large industrial groups, competitiveness clusters, research and higher education players, laboratories of excellence, technological research institute, etc.

Contexte et atouts du poste

While technology helps people to compensate for a broad set of mobility impairments, visual perception and/or cognitive deficiencies still significantly affect their ability to move safely and easily.

The aim of the Dornell project (Inria Challenge) is to propose an innovative multisensory, multimodal, smart haptic handle that can be easily plugged onto a wide range of mobility aids, including white canes, precanes, walkers, and power wheelchairs. Specifically fabricated to fit the needs of a person, it provides a wide set of ungrounded tactile sensations (e.g., pressure, skin stretch, vibrations) in a portable and plug-and-play format – bringing haptics in assistive technologies all at once.

The project will address important scientific and technological challenges, including the study of multisensory actuation, the use of new materials for multimodal haptic feedback, and the development of a haptic rendering API to adapt the feedback to different assistive scenarios and user’s wishes. The DORNELL handle will be co-design with users and therapists, driving our development by their expectations and needs.

This position will necessitate regular travels between Inria in Rennes and Inria in Nancy. Travel expenses are covered within the limits of the scale in force.

Mission confiée

The goal of the PHD work is to design and fabricate a multimodal, multisensory, ergonomic, soft, compact, portable, customizable handle able to provide multiple haptic sensations as well as sense how the user interacts with it. It will make use of innovative shapeable materials, 3D/4D printing techniques, multimodal actuation technologies, and perceptual illusions to deliver complex yet intuitive haptic sensations. Sensors embedded in the handle will register inputs and intentions of the user which will be used to control the assistive device. The design will be parametric and customizable, so that it can be adapted to a user specific needs before fabrication, as well as to the target mobility device. This will be achieved through novel parametric design techniques that can describe not only the shape, but also the positioning of sensors, actuators, and associated embedding constraints.

Collaboration :

The recruited person will be in close connection with clinical teams of Pôle Saint Hélier rehabilitation center (Renne) and Institut des Jeunes Aveuble (Yzeure).


Principales activités

The set of API for the low-level control of the actuators and sensors will allow accurate feedback and communication between each component and an external workstation (e.g., the user’s smartphone). The handle should be wireless, portable, and ready-to-use on a large set of mobility aids, yet configurable for each user. We will start by making small prototypes of each of the sensory feedbacks we wish to include in the handle, and test them in isolation. Each design will comprise a 3D printed embedding shape into which sensors and haptic actuators will be integrated. Then, we will design a system allowing to model the final handle, where we can select the desired feedbacks, and semi-automatically place the sensors/actuators and their accompanying parts (boards, batteries, connectors) within the template handle 3D model. This will involve locally modifying the handle material -- producing a foam-like architectured microstructure, as well as specific surface details -- to allow for the target haptic feedback to be generated by the actuators.

This integration of actuators should provide a rich multimodal haptic feedback, i.e., controlled vibration and pressure sensation as well as the ability to actively modify the perceived stiffness of the handle. The integration of thermal devices and pressure sensors can complete the delivery system. One of the challenges will be to ensure all these functionalities with low energy consumption, as the handle aims at being wireless. We will also study how to create samples, mock-up, and/or demonstration handles that can be given to users early-on, so as to best customize the final design before its fabrication. Indeed, making the link between the user’s needs and the template design parameters is a challenge on its own, that we seek to explore. The design of low level control and communication will have to be done in connection with this customization of the user experience. In order to guarantee a low volume of energy sources, the control of the actuators will be optimized for consumption by non-linear techniques, and communications will use low-power protocols.


Technical skills:

The applicant should have a strong interest in working in a multidisciplinary team, including exchanges with our clinical partners. Ideally, she/he has an experience in mechatronics domain:

  • skills in instrumentation and experimentation;
  • signal processing and electronics;
  • computer science, C/C++ coding;
  • familiarity with system dynamics and control;
  • familiarity with computer graphics and 3D printing;
  • familiarity with system mechanics and materials is considered as an asset.

Languages :

  • Excellent level in French and/or English (C1 or equivalent)

Relational skills :

  • Capacity to efficiently work in a scientific environment, passion for experimental research
  • Capacity to conduct independent work within a team
  • The applicant should be comfortable conducting clinical studies with people with disabilities.


  • Subsidized meals
  • Partial reimbursement of public transport costs
  • Leave: 7 weeks of annual leave + 10 extra days off due to RTT (statutory reduction in working hours) 
  • Professional equipment available (videoconferencing, loan of computer equipment, etc.)
  • Social, cultural and sports events and activities
  • Access to vocational training
  • Social security coverage


monthly gross salary amounting to : 

  • 1982 euros for the first and second years and
  • 2085 euros for the third year