Here is a simple demonstration that illustrates how haptic perception is both quite remarkable and quite under-appreciated: Reach into your pocket or handbag and extract from the clutter therein without looking, mind you"a bill, or a coin, or a set of keys. Even better, locate your car's key fob, find the unlock button and push it’still without looking. Did you succeed? Of course you did. Using a key fob is surely no feat of prestidigitation; yet, it merits our thoughtful consideration. Over 20 years ago, Susan Lederman and Roberta Klatzky showed that humans could use haptics to identify common objects quickly and accurately, and that haptic perception was subserved by a stereotypical set of "exploratory procedures" including enclosure, lateral motion, pressure, contour following, and others. These exploratory procedures are enabled by a hand having some twenty-odd degrees of freedom and tens of thousands of mechanoreceptors, not to mention the vast resources of the central nervous system.
There is evidently a lot more to pulling a key fob from one's pocket than meets the eye (or the fingertip!). Indeed, I believe this illustration helps us understand what haptics is and what a journal on haptics can aspire to accomplish. For example, it teaches us that haptics is interactive. Having another person press a key fob against your outstretched fingers in no way compares to reaching out and touching the fob yourself. Haptic perception arises from the integrated activity of the sensing and movement systems. It involves inputs not only from the skin, but also from the muscles, tendons, and joints. Similarly, the physics underlying haptics is bilateral. For instance, when pushing the unlock button, one cannot unilaterally specify both the motion and force. Causality demands that the button's own mechanical properties contribute to the behavior that emerges. This intimate give-and-take with the environment being sensed stands in marked contrast to vision and audition.
The example also illustrates that the study of haptics is interdisciplinary. Understanding how haptics can be used to identify objects or enable manipulation requires the insights of mechanics, control, psychophysics, cognitive neuroscience, and potentially other disciplines.
Yet, as rich as this example is, something quite important is missing from it. Indeed, one might argue that something is missing from the title of our journal: the word "interface." The agenda of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics (ToH) is decidedly not just about understanding haptics, but goes further to ask how haptic interfaces can be designed, controlled, and used. Pulling a key fob from one's pocket is an example of haptics as it occurs naturally, but we are just as interested in pulling a virtual key fob from a virtual pocket. Well, not really. At least, I'm not aware of anyone who has tackled that particular problem. But similar—and more serious—challenges abound: training medical students using virtual patients, testing assemblability of complex machines before they are manufactured, improving the usability and functionality of human-computer interfaces, and so on.
Of course, if one really did want to pull a virtual key fob from a virtual pocket, I think it is fair to say that it could not be done with today's haptic technology. This highlights the final lesson that I hope to extract from the example: Haptics is a field still in its infancy. Few people reading this will have known that the field existed even a decade ago. My own first exposure to a programmable haptic interface occurred scarcely more than two decades ago when my lab mate Bernard (Dov) Adelstein programmed his powered joystick (which he built to study tremor suppression) to emulate virtual walls and detents. Our field has seen remarkable advances in the years since, and even the development of a burgeoning market for haptic devices, but there still remain many gaps in our knowledge, and many interfaces that we wish we could create, if only we knew how.
Against this backdrop, it is hard to imagine a more opportune time to launch a new journal in haptics. The field is dynamic, growing, and relevant to the concerns of society, yet facing many challenges. This virtually guarantees that important scientific and engineering advances will be made in the years to come. The role of the ToH will be to provide a forum in which these advances can be disseminated to a broad, interdisciplinary community of researchers. Moreover, we should expect that ToH will accelerate the advancement of haptics by promoting the exchange of ideas and archiving key developments.
As such, ToH will strive to represent the breadth of work that haptics comprises: device design and control; modeling and rendering; telemanipulation; tactile, thermal, kinesthetic, and multimodal interfaces; perception and human motor control; human-computer interface; cognitive neuroscience; and applications in diverse areas: medicine, rehabilitation, training, computer-aided design, data visualization, mobile communications and entertainment (to name a few).
I believe that ToH also has a special duty to provide education, not just via publication of original research, but also via publication of cross-disciplinary surveys and tutorials as well as special issues that focus on emerging areas. Readers will find instances of all of these in the first several issues of ToH, and I warmly encourage submissions along these lines.
The need for an archival journal in the field of haptics has been recognized for some time. Blake Hannaford's visionary creation of the electronic journal Haptics-e was perhaps the earliest indication. But, the need for print publications remained, leading to a plethora of special issues. Domenico Prattichizzo has documented more than 40 special issues in haptics and closely related topics during the decade from 1998 to 2007. It was not until the formation of the Technical Committee on Haptics (TCH) in 2006, however, that the world-wide community of haptics researchers had sufficient organization and leadership to launch a new journal. In the following year, a great many people contributed their effort to this process, but Hong Tan, chair of the TCH, and William Harwin with Karon MacLean (Publications Vice-Chair of the TCH) who led the journal formation efforts, deserve special mention.
ToH is a joint effort of three IEEE Societies: Computer, Robotics and Automation, and Consumer Electronics. It receives primary financial support from the first two, and is published by the Computer Society. It is governed by a Management Committee representing all three societies, and chaired by Peter Luh.
ToH began operations in October 2007 when Associate Editors-in-Chief Susan Lederman and Domenico Prattichizzo, and I began to make a myriad of little decisions, and some bigger ones too. No doubt the biggest of these was the appointment of a team of Associate Editors (AEs): Federico Barbagli, Cagatay Basdogan, Martin Buss, Marc Ernst, Antonio Frisoli, Brent Gillespie, Danny Grant, Matthias Harders, Vincent Hayward, Lynette Jones, Hiroyuki Kajimoto, Astrid Kappers, Abderrahmane Kheddar, Ming Lin, Karon Maclean, Brian Miller, Haruo Noma, Allison Okamura, Marcia O'Malley, Jeha Ryu, Hong Tan, and Yasuyoshi Yokokohji. This is one decision of which I am quite proud. The AEs, who are introduced in this issue, are all people who have made important contributions to haptics through their scholarship as well as their service. Moreover, this team reflects the geographic and disciplinary diversity of our field.
Each submission to ToH is examined by our journal administrator, Hilary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org), and by myself (email@example.com). After that, either Susan, Domenico, or I (AEIC/EIC) will assign it to an AE who will select and correspond with reviewers. The AE will make a recommendation based on the reviews as well as his or her own assessment. This is sent to the AEIC/EIC who makes a decision and communicates it to the authors. This tiered structure enables us to maintain the anonymity of the AE until the conclusion of the review process, and to ensure that each paper receives a thorough and fair evaluation. Moreover, our editorial board is strongly committed to a timely and constructive review process.
ToH will be published biannually this year and will move to a quarterly next year, and its volumes will not be among the thicker ones on your bookshelf. I hope that they will, however, be among the most treasured! Over time, the thickness and frequency of these volumes will surely be a reflection of the field itself—a field that I fully expect to thrive. With this in mind, I would like to close by encouraging your participation as a subscriber to, reader of, reviewer for, and contributor to the IEEE Transactions on Haptics.
J. Edward Colgate