Robotic Light Touch Assists Human Balance Control During Maximum Forward Reaching

Leif Johannsen, Karna Potwar, Matteo Saveriano, Satoshi Endo, Dongheui Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We investigated how light interpersonal touch (IPT) provided by a robotic system supports human individuals performing a challenging balance task compared to IPT provided by a human partner. Background: IPT augments the control of body balance in contact receivers without a provision of mechanical body weight support. The nature of the processes governing the social haptic interaction, whether they are predominantly reactive or predictive, is uncertain. Method: Ten healthy adult individuals performed maximum forward reaching (MFR) without visual feedback while standing upright. We evaluated their control of reaching behavior and of body balance during IPT provided by either another human individual or by a robotic system in two alternative control modes (reactive vs. predictive). Results: Reaching amplitude was not altered by any condition but all IPT conditions showed reduced body sway in the MFR end-state. Changes in reaching behavior under robotic IPT conditions, such as lower speed and straighter direction, were linked to reduced body sway. An Index of Performance expressed a potential trade-off between speed and accuracy with lower bitrate in the IPT conditions. Conclusion: The robotic IPT system was as supportive as human IPT. Robotic IPT seemed to afford more specific adjustments in the human contact receiver, such as trading reduced speed for increased accuracy, to meet the intrinsic demands and constraints of the robotic system or the demands of the social context when in contact with a human contact provider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-526
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • body balance
  • forward reaching
  • interpersonal light touch
  • robotic assistance


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