Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Characterization of Tactile Perception and Optimal Exploration Movement


The tactile sense is one of the most important senses humans process. In this study, the characterization of tactile perception and optimal exploration movement of skin were studied using an artificial finger, which is essential to the recognition of texture surfaces, the assessment of cosmetics and fabrics, and the development of intelligent robots. The vibration and friction signals during tactile perception were measured using the artificial finger and a tribometer. Eight characteristic features were extracted from the vibration and friction signals. A statistical analysis method associated with human subjective evaluation was used to compare the performance of the features in the characterization of the tactile perception. The results show that in the simulation of exploration movement using the artificial finger, the influence of exploration velocity on the tactile perception is greater than that of normal load. The sensitivity of tactile sensation is influenced by the exploration velocity. The optimal exploration velocity and normal load are approximately 10 mm/s and 1.5 N, respectively. A number of optimal features were selected. Spectral centroid, vertical deviations-1, and coefficient of friction were consistent with human tactile sensing and could characterize the perceived fineness, roughness, and slipperiness sensitively and accurately. The related mechanism was discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. 1.

    Zhang, Y., Mukaibo, Y., Maeno, T.: A multi-purpose tactile sensor inspired by human finger for texture and tissue stiffness detection. In: Proceedings of the 2006 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics, pp. 159–164. Kunming, China (2006)

  2. 2.

    Fishel, J.A., Loeb, G.E.: Bayesian exploration for intelligent identification of textures. Front. Neurorobot. 6, 1–20 (2012)

  3. 3.

    Hollins, M., Risner, S.R.: Evidence for the duplex theory of tactile texture perception. Percept. Psychophys. 62, 695–705 (2000)

  4. 4.

    Ikei, Y., Wakamatsu, K., Fukuda, S.: Texture presentation by vibratory tactile display-image based presentation of a tactile texture. In: Virtual Reality Annual International Symposium, pp. 199–205, 219. Albuquerque, NM, (1997)

  5. 5.

    Horiuchi, K., Kashimoto, A., Tsuchiya, R., Yokoyama, M., Nakano, K.: Relationship between tactile sensation and friction signals in cosmetic foundation. Tribol. Lett. 36, 113–123 (2009)

  6. 6.

    Nakano, K., Horiuchi, K., Soneda, T., Kashimotob, A., Tsuchiyab, R., Yokoyamab, M.: A neural network approach to predict tactile comfort of applying cosmetic foundation. Tribol. Int. 43, 1978–1990 (2010)

  7. 7.

    Kawasaki, H., Komatsu, T., Uchiyama, K.: Dexterous anthropomorphic robot hand with distributed tactile sensor: Gifu hand II. IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatron. 7, 296–303 (2002)

  8. 8.

    Choi, B., Lee, S., Choi, H.R., Kang, S.: Development of anthropomorphic robot hand with tactile sensor: SKKU Hand II. 2006 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pp. 3779–3784. Beijing, China (2006)

  9. 9.

    Kuijt-Evers, L.F.M., Bosch, T., Huysmans, M.A., de Looze, M.P., Vink, P.: Association between objective and subjective measurements of comfort and discomfort in hand tools. Appl. Ergon. 38, 643–654 (2007)

  10. 10.

    Katz, D., Krueger, L.E.: The world of touch. Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc, Mahwah (1989)

  11. 11.

    Hollins, M., Bensmaıa, S.J., Roy, E.A.: Vibrotaction and texture perception. Behav. Brain Res. 135, 51–56 (2002)

  12. 12.

    de Boissieu, F., Godin, C., Guilhamat, B., David, D., Serviere, C., Baudois, D.: Tactile texture recognition with a 3-axial force MEMS integrated artificial finger. In: Proceeding of Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), Seattle, USA (2009)

  13. 13.

    Fagiani, R., Massi, F., Chatelet, E., Berthiera, Y., Akayc, A.: Tactile perception by friction induced vibrations. Tribol. Int. 44, 1100–1110 (2011)

  14. 14.

    Sinapov, J., Stoytchev, A.: The boosting effect of exploratory behaviors. In: Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, pp. 1613–1618. Atlanta, USA (2010)

  15. 15.

    Jamali, N., Sammut, C.: Majority voting: material classification by tactile sensing using surface texture. IEEE Trans. Rob. 27, 508–521 (2011)

  16. 16.

    Fishel, J. A., Santos, V. J., Loeb, G. E.: A robust microvibration sensor for biomimetic fingertips. In: IEEE/RAS-EMBS International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, pp. 659–663. Scottsdale, AZ (2008)

  17. 17.

    Su, Z., Fishel, J.A., Yamamoto, T., Loeb, G.E.: Use of tactile feedback to control exploratory movements to characterize object compliance. Front Neurorobot. 6, 1–9 (2012)

  18. 18.

    Guo, K., Zhang, X., Li, H., Meng, G.: Application of EMD method to friction signal processing. Mech. Syst. Signal Pr. 22, 248–259 (2008)

  19. 19.

    Huang, N.E., Shen, Z., Long, S.R., Wu, M.C., Shih, H.H., Zheng, Q., Yen, N.C., Tung, C.C., Liu, H.H.: The empirical mode decomposition and the Hilbert spectrum for nonlinear and non-stationary time series analysis. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 454, 903–995 (1998)

  20. 20.

    Wohlert, A.B.: Tactile perception of spatial stimuli on the lip surface by young and older adults. J. Speech Hear. Res. 39, 1191–1198 (1996)

  21. 21.

    Bolanowski, S.J., Gescheider, G.A., Verrillo, R.T., Checkosky, C.M.: Four channels mediate the mechanical aspects of touch. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 84, 1680–1694 (1988)

  22. 22.

    Nacht, S., Close, J., Yeung, D., Gans, E.H.: Skin friction coefficient: changes induced by skin hydration and emollient application and correlation with perceived skin feel. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 32, 55–65 (1981)

  23. 23.

    Akiyama, Y., Mishima, F., Nishijima, S.: Fundamental study on the quantification of tactile sensation. Electron. Commun. Jpn 95, 29–36 (2012)

  24. 24.

    Scheibert, J., Leurent, S., Prevost, A., Debrégeas, G.: The role of fingerprints in the coding of tactile information probed with a biomimetic sensor. Science 323, 1503–1506 (2009)

  25. 25.

    Oddo, C.M., Beccai, L., Felder, M., Giovacchini, F., Carrozza, M.C.: Artificial roughness encoding with a bio-inspired MEMS-based tactile sensor array. Sensors 9, 3161–3183 (2009)

  26. 26.

    Oddo, C.M., Controzzi, M., Beccai, L., Cipriani, C., Carrozza, M.C.: Roughness encoding for discrimination of surfaces in artificial active-touch. IEEE Trans. Rob. 27, 522–533 (2011)

  27. 27.

    Culbertson, H., Unwin, J., Goodman, B.E., Kuchenbecker, K. J.: Generating haptic texture models from unconstrained tool-surface interactions. In: Proceedings of IEEE World Haptics Conference, pp. 295–300 (2013)

  28. 28.

    Culbertson, H., Unwin, J., Kuchenbecker, K.: Modeling and rendering realistic textures from unconstrained tool-surface interactions. IEEE Trans. Haptics 7, 381–392 (2014)

  29. 29.

    Wieleba, W.: The statistical correlation of the coefficient of friction and wear rate of PTFE composites with steel counterface roughness and hardness. Wear 252, 719–729 (2002)

  30. 30.

    Yoshizawa, H., Chen, Y.L., Israelachvili, J.: Fundamental mechanisms of interfacial friction. 1. Relation between adhesion and friction. J. Phys. Chem. 97, 4128–4140 (1993)

  31. 31.

    Tang, W., Bhushan, B.: Adhesion, friction and wear characterization of skin and skin cream using atomic force microscope. Colloids Surf. B: Biointerfaces 76, 1–15 (2010)

  32. 32.

    Bhushan, B.: Principles and Applications of Tribology. Wiley, Somerset (2013)

  33. 33.

    Bhushan, B.: Introduction to Tribology, 2nd edn. Wiley, Somerset (2013)

  34. 34.

    Park, J.Y., Thiel, P.A.: Atomic scale friction and adhesion properties of quasicrystal surfaces. J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 20, 1–14 (2008)

  35. 35.

    Achanta, S., Liskiewicz, T., Drees, D., Celis, J.-P.: Friction mechanisms at the micro-scale. Tribol. Int. 42, 1792–1799 (2009)

  36. 36.

    Philippe, F., Schacher, L., Adolphe, D.C.: Tactile exploration perception: Sensory analysis applied to textile goods. Text. Res. J. 74, 1066–1072 (2004)

  37. 37.

    Tang, W., Ge, S., Zhu, H.: Study on the influence of normal load and sliding speed on skin friction. J. Bionic Eng. 5, 33–38 (2008)

  38. 38.

    Pasumarty, S.M., Johnson, S.A., Watson, S.A., Adams, M.J.: Friction of the human finger pad: influence of moisture, occlusion and velocity. Tribol. Lett. 44, 117–137 (2011)

  39. 39.

    Liao, J.C.: Experimental investigation of frictional properties of the human finger pad. MSc Thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1998)

  40. 40.

    Ludema, K.C., Tabor, D.: The friction and visco-elastic properties of polymeric solids. Wear 9, 329–348 (1966)

  41. 41.

    Kurokawa, T., Tominaga, T., Katsuyama, Y., Kuwabara, R., Furukawa, H., Osada, Y., Gong, J.P.: Elastic-hydrodynamic transition of gel friction. Langmuir 21, 8643–8648 (2005)

  42. 42.

    Briscoe, B.J., Tabor, D.: Shear properties of thin polymeric films. J. Adhesion 9, 145–155 (1978)

  43. 43.

    Grosch, K.A.: Relation between friction and viscoelastic properties of rubber. Proc. R Soc. Lond. A 274, 21–39 (1963)

  44. 44.

    Dinç, O.S., Ettles, C.M., Calabrese, S.J., Scarton, H.A.: Some parameters affecting tactile friction. J. Tribol. 113, 512–517 (1991)

  45. 45.

    Adams, M., Briscoe, B., Johnson, S.: Friction and lubrication of human skin. Tribol. Lett. 26, 239–253 (2007)

  46. 46.

    Wolfram, L.J.: Friction of skin. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 34, 465–476 (1983)

  47. 47.

    Derler, S., Gerhardt, L.C.: Tribology of skin: review and analysis of experimental results for the friction coefficient of human skin. Tribol. Lett. 45, 1–27 (2012)

  48. 48.

    Greenwood, J.A., Williamson, J.B.P.: Contact of nominally flat surfaces. Proc. R. Soc. A 295(1442), 300–319 (1966)

  49. 49.

    Prevost, A., Scheibert, J., Debrégeas, G.: Effect of fingerprints orientation on skin vibrations during tactile exploration of textured surfaces. Commun. Integr. Biol. 2, 422–424 (2009)

  50. 50.

    Webster III, R.J., Murphy, T.E., Verner, L.N., Okamura, A.M.: A novel two-dimensional tactile slip display: design, kinematics and perceptual experiments. ACM Trans. Appl. Percept. 2, 150–165 (2005)

  51. 51.

    Fuller, K.N.G., Tabor, D.: The effect of surface roughness on the adhesion of elastic solids. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A. 345, 327–342 (1975)

  52. 52.

    McFarlane, J.S., Tabor, D.: Relation between friction and adhesion. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 202, 244–253 (1950)

  53. 53.

    Tomlinson, S.E., Lewis, R., Liu, X., Texier, C.: Carre´, M.J.: Understanding the friction mechanisms between the human finger and flat contacting surfaces in moist conditions. Tribol. Lett. 41, 283–294 (2011)

  54. 54.

    Gerhardt, L.-C., Lenz, A., Spencer, N.D.: Mu¨nzer, T., Derler, S.: Skin-textile friction and skin elasticity in young and aged persons. Skin Res. Technol. 15, 288–298 (2009)

  55. 55.

    Elkhyat, A., Courderot-Masuyer, C., Gharbi, T., Humbert, P.: Influence of the hydrophobic and hydrophilic characteristics of sliding and slider surfaces on friction coefficient: in vivo human skin friction comparison. Skin Res. Technol. 10, 215–221 (2004)

Download references


The authors acknowledge financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China 51205394, Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education 20120095120014, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project 2013T60572, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities 2014QNA41, the International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship Program, and a project funded by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions. The authors acknowledge the SynTouch LLC for supporting the biomimetic finger.

Ethical standards

On behalf of, and having obtained permission from, all the authors, I declare that: the work described is the original research and none of the material attached has been published previously or is under consideration for publication elsewhere, in whole or in part; all authors have agreed to submit this paper to journal of “Tribology Letters.” There is no conflict of interest in the submission of this manuscript approved by all the authors listed; the research in the manuscript has been conducted under the guidance of international ethical standards. All relevant ethical safeguards have been met in relation to patient or subject protection, or animal experimentation. Financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China 51205394, Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education 20120095120014, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation funded project 2013T60572, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities 2014QNA41, the International Postdoctoral Exchange Fellowship Program, and a project funded by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions. I testify to the accuracy of the above on behalf of all the authors.

Author information

Correspondence to Hua Zhu.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tang, W., Chen, N., Zhang, J. et al. Characterization of Tactile Perception and Optimal Exploration Movement. Tribol Lett 58, 28 (2015).

Download citation


  • Tactile perception
  • Features
  • Exploration velocity
  • Exploration normal load