Understanding the human motor control strategy during physical interaction tasks is crucial for developing future robots for physical human-robot interaction (pHRI). In physical human-human interaction (pHHI), small interaction forces are known to convey their intent between the partners for effective motor communication. The aim of this work is to investigate what affects the human's sensitivity to the externally applied interaction forces. The hypothesis is that one way the small interaction forces are sensed is through the movement of the arm and the resulting proprioceptive signals. A pHRI setup was used to provide small interaction forces to the hand of seated participants in one of four directions, while the participants were asked to identify the direction of the push while blindfolded. The result shows that participants' ability to correctly report the direction of the interaction force was lower with low interaction force as well as with high muscle contraction. The sensitivity to the interaction force direction increased with the radial displacement of the participant's hand from the initial position: the further they moved the more correct their responses were. It was also observed that the estimated stiffness of the arm varies with the level of muscle contraction and robot interaction force.


Psychological Science

Second Department

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


This work is supported by the National Science Foundation #1843892.

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 Dec 2021