Discrimination of dynamic tactile contact by temporally precise event sensing in spiking neuromorphic networks

Wang Wei Lee, Sunil L. Kukreja, Nitish V. Thakor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper presents a neuromorphic tactile encoding methodology that utilizes a temporally precise event-based representation of sensory signals. We introduce a novel concept where touch signals are characterized as patterns of millisecond precise binary events to denote pressure changes. This approach is amenable to a sparse signal representation and enables the extraction of relevant features from thousands of sensing elements with sub-millisecond temporal precision. We also proposed measures adopted from computational neuroscience to study the information content within the spiking representations of artificial tactile signals. Implemented on a state-of-the-art 4096 element tactile sensor array with 5.2 kHz sampling frequency, we demonstrate the classification of transient impact events while utilizing 20 times less communication bandwidth compared to frame based representations. Spiking sensor responses to a large library of contact conditions were also synthesized using finite element simulations, illustrating an 8-fold improvement in information content and a 4-fold reduction in classification latency when millisecond-precise temporal structures are available. Our research represents a significant advance, demonstrating that a neuromorphic spatiotemporal representation of touch is well suited to rapid identification of critical contact events, making it suitable for dynamic tactile sensing in robotic and prosthetic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomimetic
  • Dynamic tactile sensing
  • Neuromorphic
  • Spatiotemporal
  • Spiking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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