Skip to main content

Touching Sharp Virtual Objects Produces a Haptic Illusion

  • Conference paper

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 6773)


Top down perceptual processing implies that much of what we perceive is based on prior knowledge and expectation. It has been argued that such processing is why Virtual Reality works at all - the brain filling in missing information based on expectation. We investigated this with respect to touch. Seventeen participants were asked to touch different objects seen in a Virtual Reality system. Although no haptic feedback was provided, questionnaire results show that sharpness was experienced when touching a virtual cone and scissors, but not when touching a virtual sphere. Skin conductance responses separate out the sphere as different to the remaining objects. Such exploitation of expectation-based illusory sensory feedback could be useful in the design of plausible virtual environments.


  • Virtual Reality
  • Human Reaction
  • Physiology
  • Haptic Illusion


  1. Andreassi, J.J.: Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response, 4th edn. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, London (2000)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Armel, K., Ramachandran, V.: Projecting sensations to external objects: evidence from skin conductance response. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, Biological Sciences 270, 1499–1506 (2003)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  3. Boucsein, W.: Electrodermal Activity, New York (1992)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ehrsson, H.H.: The experimental induction of out-of-body experiences. Science 317(5841) (August 2007)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ehrsson, H.H., Kito, T., Sadato, N., Passingham, R.E., Naito, E.: Neural substrate of body size: Illusory feeling of shrinking of the waist. PLoS Biol. 3(12) (November 2005)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Lackner, J.R.: Some proprioceptive influences on the perceptual representation of body shape and orientation. Brain 111(2), 281–297 (1988)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  7. Lenggenhager, B., Tadi, T., Metzinger, T., Blanke, O.: Video ergo sum: Manipulating bodily self-consciousness. Science 317(5841), 1096–1099 (2007)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  8. Petkova, V.I., Ehrsson, H.H.: If i were you: Perceptual illusion of body swapping. PLos ONE 3(12) (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Sanchez-Vives, M.V., Slater, M.: From presence to consciousness through virtual reality. Nature Neuroscience 6(4), 8–16 (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Slater, M., Marcos, D.P., Ehrsson, H.H., Sanchez-Vives, M.V.: Towards a digital body: The virtual arm illusion. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2(6) (March 2008)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Slater, M.: Place illusion and plausibility can lead to realistic behaviour in immersive virtual environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 364(1535), 3549–3557 (2009)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  12. Stark, L.W.: How virtual reality works! the illusions of vision in real and virtual environments. In: Proc SPIE: Symposium on Electronic Imaging: Science and Technology, vol. 2411, pp. 5–10 (February 1995)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Stern, R.M., Ray, W.J., Quigley, K.S.: Psychophysiological Recording, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2001)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2011 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this paper

Cite this paper

Brogni, A., Caldwell, D.G., Slater, M. (2011). Touching Sharp Virtual Objects Produces a Haptic Illusion. In: Shumaker, R. (eds) Virtual and Mixed Reality - New Trends. VMR 2011. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 6773. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-22020-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-22021-0

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)