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Innovation on Tap: Marcia O’Malley, Rice University

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Category: Academic Network, Community & Engagement, Corporate Innovators, Founders & Startups, Hardware, Human Performance, Investors & Capital, MedTech/HealthTech




June 29, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm CDT


4201 Main Street
Houston, TX 77002


Featured Speaker: Marcia O’Malley, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, George R. Brown School of Engineering
Thomas Michael Panos Family Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Rice University. 

Conveying touch feedback via wearables

Vibrotactile haptic feedback is ubiquitous for notifications and alerts in portable devices such as phones, smart watches, and fitness trackers, but the set of possible notifications is limited by the nature of the small vibration motors so often used to deliver such cues. Wearable haptics refers to systems worn on the body or integrated into clothing that can provide haptic feedback to the wearer in a wide range of forms, such as vibrotactile, skin stretch, pressure, and kinesthetic feedback. The potential for wearable haptics is supported by technological advancements in sensing and actuation that allow for the design and deployment of flexible materials, fabrics, and small-footprint actuators that can augment and enhance human performance. While rigid and grounded haptic feedback devices have been explored as a means to train new motor skills, rehabilitate movement coordination after neurological injury, and even augment human force output capabilities in tasks such as lifting or running, the application space is limited due to the weight and scale of such devices. Wearable haptic devices seek to overcome the limitations of rigid and grounded haptic devices. In recent years, my group has been designing novel wearable haptic systems that provide multiple haptic modalities of feedback to the user, including vibration, skin stretch, pressure, and kinesthetic feedback, all packaged in bands that can be worn on the arm. We have developed these systems to enhance communication, provide haptic feedback to amputees using prosthetics, to train surgeons using virtual reality simulators, and to enhance user experiences in VR. In this talk, I will present some of our wearable haptic systems, describe our target applications, and highlight the distinguishing features our hardware and haptic rendering paradigms.

We invite attendees to join the featured speaker and event attendees for networking at Second Draught after the talk.

Marcia O’Malley is the Thomas Michael Panos Family Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Associate Dean for Research and Innovation in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. In July of 2023, she will transition from Associate Dean to Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at both Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. Her research is in the areas of haptics and robotic rehabilitation, with a focus on the design and control of wearable robotic devices for training and rehabilitation. She has twice received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. O’Malley was a recipient of both the ONR Young Investigator award and the NSF CAREER Award. She is a Fellow of the ASME, the IEEE, and the AIMBE.

About Innovation on Tap: Disruptive Technology Talks with Houston’s Leading Researchers

Industrial innovation is in the DNA of Houston (energy, health, space, and transportation), and the Ion is at the forefront of moving the city to become a technology destination, a central place where we support bold moves that embrace the innovation economy at an industrial scale. The Ion is a place where we accelerate disruption by connecting people and ideas to create a future that will not only change Houston but change the world.

Ion Innovation on Tap lecture series is focused on bridging world-leading academic research to the broader innovation ecosystem, creating connections and partnerships that will not only accelerate translation and commercialization but form relationships that will drive future fundamental advances needed to address fundamental problems like decarbonization, personalized health care, and create resilient and sustainable livable communities.

Examples of disruptive technology include but are not limited to AI and machine learning, robotics, synthetic biology, neuro-engineering, nano-materials, cyber security, imaging, blockchain, and quantum computing.

The lecture series will feature leading researchers spanning engineering, science, and design, showcasing advanced technology and innovation from academic research labs and programs. Largely inaccessible and buried in journals and conference proceedings, technology will be presented in an accessible TED-style lecture format with ample networking opportunities. The disruptive technology lecture series will serve as a magnifying glass connecting fundamental technology to people and organizations that can benefit and help activate technology through commercialization. More than that, the lecture series will serve as a front door for collaboration between researchers and industry partners and/or the formation of new technology startups that will help establish Ion and Houston as a global hub for innovation.


Red Parking Lot
Enter 4203 Fannin Street into your GPS for directions directly to the red parking lot, located across the street from the Ion. This lot is for overflow guest parking and tenant parking.

Ion District Parking Garage (Now Open!)
Enter 4111 Fannin Street into your GPS for directions directly to this parking garage, located a block away from the Ion.