Already starting at birth, humans integrate information from several sensory modalities in order to form a representation of the environment - such as when a baby explores, manipulates, and interacts with objects. The combination of visual and touch information is one of the most fundamental sensory integration processes, as touch information (such as body-relative size, shape, texture, material, temperature, and weight) can easily be linked to the visual image, thereby providing a grounding for later visual-only recognition. Previous research on such integration processes has so far mainly focused on low-level object properties (such as curvature, or surface granularity) such that little is known on how the human actually forms a high-level multisensory representation of objects. Here, I will review research from our lab that investigates how the human brain processes shape using input from vision and touch. Using a large variety of novel, 3D-printed shapes we were able to show that touch is actually equally good at shape processing than vision, suggesting a common, multisensory representation of shape. We next conducted a series of imaging experiments (using anatomical, functional, and white-matter analyses) that chart the brain networks that process this shape representation. I will conclude the talk with a brief medley of other haptics-related research in the lab, including robot learning, braille, and haptic face recognition.
Biography: Christian Wallraven received his PhD in Physics for work on a perceptually-motivated computer vision system at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. He then moved to Korea University, where he is now Associate Professor and head of the Cognitive Systems lab with research focusing on multisensory information integration in the brain, social face processing in humans and machines, decision making, and perceptual evaluation of algorithms. He has co-authored over 200 publications with an interdisciplinary approach integrating cognitive neuroscience, machine learning, and immersive computer graphics.