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Active Touch Laboratory at Sheffield

The Active Touch Laboratory uses methods in animal behaviour, neuroethology, human psychophysics, computational modelling and robotics to investigate tactile sensing in animals, people and intelligent machines

Meet the lab

Tony PrescottTony Prescott

I investigate active touch sensing in animals, humans and robots, focusing on (i) the evolution of the mammalian somatosensory system, (ii) multisensory perception and memory, (iii) haptic interaction and emotional touch in biomimetic robots, and (iv) haptic interfaces for sensory augmentation and telepresence.

Ben MitchinsonBen Mitchinson

My research on active touch sensing focuses on its role in generating functional spatial percepts that drive local motion planning through spatial attention and global motion planning through mapping and navigation systems. I investigate these themes through computational modelling and through the construction of biomimetic robots

Stuart WilsonStuart Wilson

My research explores the interaction between evolution and development in the context of mammalian somatosensory systems. In particular, I am interested in how self-organisation can interact with natural selection in the context of i) self-organisation of topological maps in rodent barrel cortex, ii) self-organising thermoregulatory huddling behaviours in rodent litters

Hannes SaalHannes Saal (co-director)

I use human psychophysics, computational modeling, and applied machine learning in order to elucidate the fundamental computations allowing us to make sense of our environment through touch

Kendra ArkleyKendra Arkley (co-director)

I investigate how small mammals make sense of their environment using their highly sensitive vibrissae (whiskers). Specifically, I aim to understand vibrissal active sensing by capturing whisker movements using high-speed videography during naturalistic behaviours like locomotion and climbing

Emily CollinsEmily Collins

I explore the neurological pathways involved in touch processes, and am interested in how these could be exploited to further positive therapeutic outcomes. I work with biomimetic and brain-based robotics investigating the therapeutic potential of emotional touch in human-robot interactions, based on models of human-animal interactions

Journal club

Details of our first journal club to be announced!

News and resources
  • New study shows habitat loss as the reason for the UK's 'Disappearing Dormice' (The Ecologist, 1st February 2017)
  • Huddled mice could change the way we think about evolution (The Conversation, 16th November, 2016)
  • Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism' (ScienceDaily, 3rd September 2015)
  • Cover article for New Scientist by Tony Prescott (Issue 3013, 18th March 2015)
  • How rats can see in the dark (Daily Mail, 8th July 2014)
  • Rats use their whiskers like humans use their fingers (IFLScience, July 8th, 2014)
  • Rats alter the way they use whiskers to help navigation (BBC Nature News, 7th July 2014)
  • Seals judge size using their whiskers (BBC Nature News, 17th February 2013)
  • Touch sensing in harbor seals (Mammal News, Spring 2012, pp. 20-21)
  • Robo rat (The Scientist, 1st April 2012)
  • Dormice whiskers aid tree-climbing (BBC Nature News, 29th May 2012)
  • Robotics scientists' new 'Shrewbot' uses whiskers to navigate (The Huffington Post, 23rd January 2012)