Smart textiles that teach: Fabric-based haptic device improves the rate of motor learning

Vivek Ramachandran, Fabian Schilling, Amy Wu, Dario Floreano

People learn motor activities best when they are conscious of their errors and make a concerted effort to correct them. While haptic interfaces can facilitate motor training, existing interfaces are often bulky and do not always ensure post-training skill retention. Here, we describe a programmable haptic sleeve composed of textile-based electroadhesive clutches for skill acquisition and retention. We show its functionality in a motor learning study where users control a drone's movement using elbow joint rotation. Haptic feedback is used to restrain elbow motion and make users aware of their errors. This helps users consciously learn to avoid errors from occurring. While all subjects exhibited similar performance during the baseline phase of motor learning, those subjects who received haptic feedback from the haptic sleeve committed 23.5% fewer errors than subjects in the control group during the evaluation phase. The results show that the sleeve helps users retain and transfer motor skills better than visual feedback alone. This work shows the potential for fabric-based haptic interfaces as a training aid for motor tasks in the fields of rehabilitation and teleoperation.

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