The principle objective of this study, commissioned by Dstl, was to produce a preliminary evaluation of the usability of a multi-axis haptic (force/touch) feedback manipulator system.
The manipulator system (mounted on a static PackBot RCV) and task boxes (specially designed by the HIT Team researchers) were controlled remotely by participants using a haptic control unit, whilst viewing the task boxes remotely through two monitors, relaying views from a camera mounted on the side of the haptic manipulator system adjacent to the gripper, and from a camera located behind the haptic manipulator system.
Twelve participants took part in the study. Each participant carried out the tasks in two conditions: one with haptic feedback and one without.
The results showed that for the majority of users the tasks were achievable within two attempts, with few errors. Subjective ratings suggest that using the system did not require high levels of mental or physical workload.
Analysis of the results showed that there was no significant difference in performance due to the presence of haptic feedback. However, there were a number of issues that may have mitigated the effectiveness of the haptic feedback in these experiments.
(1) the level of haptic feedback set for the experiments;
(2) the tasks not necessarily accommodating haptic feedback well;
(3) the technique employed by novice users; 4) users’ experience interpreting haptic feedback sensations optimally.