Tactile-Augmented Radiance Fields

1University of Michigan
2Yale University
3University of California, Berkeley
CVPR 2024


We present a scene representation, which we call a tactile-augmented radiance field (TaRF), that brings vision and touch into a shared 3D space. This representation can be used to estimate the visual and tactile signals for a given 3D position within a scene. We capture a scene's TaRF from a collection of photos and sparsely sampled touch probes. Our approach makes use of two insights: (i) common vision-based touch sensors are built on ordinary cameras and thus can be registered to images using methods from multi-view geometry, and (ii) visually and structurally similar regions of a scene share the same tactile features. We use these insights to register touch signals to a captured visual scene, and to train a conditional diffusion model that, provided with an RGB-D image rendered from a neural radiance field, generates its corresponding tactile signal. To evaluate our approach, we collect a dataset of TaRFs. This dataset contains more touch samples than previous real-world datasets, and it provides spatially aligned visual signals for each captured touch signal. We demonstrate the accuracy of our cross-modal generative model and the utility of the captured visual-tactile data on several downstream tasks.

Capturing Vision and Touch Signals

Capturing Setup

We mount an RGB-D camera to one end of a rod, and a tactile sensor to the other end. Next, record temporally-aligned vision-touch pairs. The relative pose between the camera and the tactile sensor is solved by using visual-tactile correspondences. Since the camera and the tactile sensor are approximately orthogonal, we first synthesize a novel view by rotating the camera 90° on the x-axis and then manually annotate the correspondences between the touch measurement and synthesized frame.

The calibration procedure of estimating the 6DoF relative pose \( ({\mathbf R}, {\mathbf t}) \) between the camera and the tactile sensor is formulated as a resectioning problem. We obtain 3D points \( \{\mathbf{x}_i\}_{i=1}^M \) for each annotated correspondences. Each point has a pixel position \( \mathbf{u}_i \in \mathcal{R}^2\) in the touch measurement. We find \( ({\mathbf R}, {\mathbf t}) \) by minimizing the reprojection error:

\( \min_{{\mathbf R}, {\mathbf t}} \frac{1}{M}\sum_{i=1}^M \lVert \pi({\mathbf K}[\mathbf{R}\,\,|\,\,\mathbf{t}], \mathbf{X}_i) - \mathbf{u}_i \rVert_1, \)

where \( \pi \) is the perspective projection matrix, \( \mathbf{K} \) is the intrinsics of the tactile sensor's camera, and the point \( \mathbf{X}_i \) is in the coordinate system of the generated vision frame.

A 3D Visual-Tactile Dataset

First, we collect multiple views from the scene around the areas we plan to touch. Next, we collect synchronized visual and touch data.

We then estimate the camera location of the vision frames collected in the previous two stages using SfM. After estimating the camera poses for the vision frames, the touch measurements' poses can be derived by using the relative pose. Finally, we associate each touch sensor with a color image by translating the sensor poses upwards and querying the NeRF with such poses. Note that the white box on the center of the visual image corresponds to the touched area.

Compared to previous works, our dataset is the first to capture quasi-dense, scene-level, and spatially-aligned visual-tactile data. We call the resulting scene representation a tactile-augmented radiance field (TaRF).

Imputing Missing Touch

Method Overview

With the captured dataset, we train a diffusion model to estimate touch at locations not directly probed by a sensor. The model is conditioned on the egocentric visual images and depth maps extracted from the NeRF. Through the touch estimation, the model effectively propagates sparse touch samples, obtained by probing, to other visually/structurally similar regions of the scene.

Dense Touch Estimation

Queried with arbitrary 3D positions in the scene, our model generates touch samples with many details in micro-geometry of various materials.

Downtream Tasks

Tactile Localization

Given a tactile signal and a visual image, we ask the question: what part of this image feel like this? To do this, we first train a contrastive model that maps the visual and tactile signals into a shared embedding space. Next, we split the visual image into patches and compute the similarity between each patch and the tactile signal, which is plotted as a heatmap. The heatmaps show that our model successfully cpatures the correlations between the visual and tactile data.

Material Classification

We investigate the efficacy of our TaRF representation for understanding material properties. We follow the formulation by Yang et al. , which consists of three subtasks: (i) material classification, (ii) softness classification and (iii) roughness classification. Combining our dataset with the original data improves the effectiveness of pretraining, and adding estimated touch signals further achieves high performance on all the three tasks. This indicates that not only does our dataset covers various materials but also the diffusion model captures distinguishable and useful patterns.

Related Works

This project is highly related to the previous work Touching a NeRF, which also estimates touch from NeRF representation using object-centric data collected from robots.


  title={Tactile-Augmented Radiance Fields},
  author={Dou, Yiming and Yang, Fengyu and Liu, Yi and Loquercio, Antonio and Owens, Andrew},
  journal={arXiv preprint arXiv:2405.04534},