Engineering environments for multi-finger haptic interfaces

Department/School: Biomedical Engineering, School of Biological Sciences

Supervisor: Professor William Harwin

Application Deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Funding Availability: Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Duration: 36 months


Haptics is the science of perception, primarily through touch. Haptic interfaces enable individuals to interact with simulated worlds, most often using vision and hearing as well as touch, and then change these worlds. Most haptic simulations are set up to train surgical, dental or veterinary skills, however haptic interfaces will have an impact on all fields of technology, from better interface design through to advanced computer games. A problem with most of the current generation of haptic interfaces is that they provide the person with only a single point of contact in the virtual world. Work done in Reading has shown that it is possible to provide direct manipulation with multiple points of contact in a rigid body physical world. Demonstration of that work was limited to three points on a single hand. We intend to extend this research to enable bi-manual (use of both hands) and extend the simulation so more complex physics (cutting, tearing, gluing of hard and spongy materials). The primary focus of this thesis will be to develop the tools to enable bi-manual haptics and to begin to explore metaphors for more complex operations that might be required – for example how to indicate whether two objects should bounce or combine when brought into contact.

University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the UK’s 20 most research-intensive universities (Research Excellence Framework, 2014). Our achievements include the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement (1989) and the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education (1998, 2006 and 2009).

This project will take place in the Biomedical Engineering Section, School of Biological Sciences, which has a strong reputation for its innovative research in computer science, cybernetics, and electronic engineering.


Applicants should have a bachelors (at least 2.1 or equivalent) or master's degree in Engineering, Physics, Applied Mathematics or a strongly related discipline. Candidates will need to acquire the ability to communicate their ideas clearly both as written documents and through seminar and conference style presentations. Experience in C++, python, Matlab, or similar programming and numerical packages are desirable.

How to apply

Please submit an application for a PhD (initial registration) in Cybernetics (Biological Sciences) to the University using the link below.

In the online application system, there is a section for “Research proposal” and a box that says “If you have already been in contact with a potential supervisor, please tell us who” – in this box, please enter “Professor William Harwin”.

Funding notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.

Further enquiries

For further information about this PhD opportunity, please contact:

Professor William Harwin, tel: +44 (0)118 378 6792,

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