Workshop on Electical Muscle Stimulation as Haptics

We conducted this as a full day workshop at the IEEE Haptics Conference 2015. This work stems from my research in Proprioceptive Interaction.

Workshop Abstract: Haptic feedback allows leveraging other faculties such as proprioception instead of using the visual sense, which is often overloaded with traditional UIs. However, most haptic technologies have been away from the current trend in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) which is miniaturization (e.g., mobile, wearable). Therefore haptic techniques, such as force feedback, tend to stay inside labs. In fact, most haptic devices resist miniaturization because they require physical motors and mechanics which do not scale down easily. Researchers have proposed miniaturizing and simplifying haptic devices by using electrical-muscle stimulation as to actuate the muscles directly, rather than actuating through mechanics. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) uses a small current to elicit action on the motor fibers/nerves, causing an involuntary contraction on the user’s body. This enables mobile haptic devices capable of driving realistic forces, such as Muscle-Propelled Force Feedback [1], which fits the back of a mobile phone or in a wearable device. Furthermore, this technology has been used to create a new eyes-free interactive channel for both input and output-proprioceptive interaction, at the size of a wearable bracelet [2]. Moreover, EMS has been used to extend the affordance of everyday object by actuating the user as to suggest the correct way to manipulate these objects [3]. Also EMS has been applied to: teach a new skill such as playing a musical instrument, feeling virtual objects, and navigation support [7]. For more realistic interaction different objects properties were simulated for interaction with a wearable system [4] and for supporting pointing tasks [6]. Furthermore EMS has been used in a pedestrian navigation scenario [5] to bypass cognitive interpretation and directly manipulate the human locomotion system.


1. Lopes, P. and Baudisch, P. Muscle-propelled force feedback: bringing force feedback to mobile devices. Proc. of CHI’13, (2013), 2577–2580.

2. Lopes, P., Ion, A., Mueller, W., Hoffmann, D., Jonell, P., and Baudisch, P. Proprioceptive Interaction. Proc. of CHI’15, (2015).

3. Lopes, P., Jonell, P., and Baudisch, P. Affordance++: allowing objects to communicate dynamic use. Proc. of CHI’15, (2015).

4. Pfeiffer, M., Alt, F., and Rohs, M. Let Me Grab This : A Comparison of EMS and Vibration for Haptic Feedback in Free-Hand Interaction. Proc. of Augmented Human’14, (2014), 1–8.

5. Pfeiffer, M., Duente, T., Schneegass, S., Alt, F., and Rohs, M. Cruise Control for Pedestrians: Controlling Walking Direction using Electrical Muscle Stimulation. Proc. of CHI’15, (2015).

6. Pfeiffer, M. and Stuerzlinger, W. 3D Virtual Hand Pointing with EMS and Vibration Feedback. 3DUI’15 (to appear), (2015).

7. Tamaki, E., Miyaki, T., and Rekimoto, J. PossessedHand: Techniques for controlling human hands using electrical muscles stimuli. Proc.s of CHI’11, (2011), 543.

Workshop materials (slides)

1. Here are the introductory slides (note that this is a hands-on workshop, so most of the work is done by experimenting and building)

2. Here is our call for paper / workshop paper.

3. Feel free to visit the workshop website to see more details.

Interested in having this workshop?

Simply contact me.