Professor Vincent Lévesque joins the ÉTS Software Engineering and IT Department

He plans to continue his research into multiplying the uses of haptics in as many fields as possible

December 18, 2017
Haptics is to touch what acoustics is to hearing and what optics is to sight. Of our five senses, touch is one of those that are spoken about the least, despite the fact that it is crucial to our survival. The sense of touch allows us to perceive our own body within our environment and to protect ourselves against the aggressions of that environment.

Vincent Lévesque, who recently joined the software engineering and information technologies team at ÉTS as a Professor/Researcher, knows something about this subject. His research has focused on haptics for more than 15 years, and it was the topic of his Master’s, Doctoral and Post-Doctoral studies. According to Professor Lévesque: “We have a tendency to focus on the visual and aural when we speak about the transmission of information. However, haptics technologies can also be used to transmit information through the application of force, vibration or movement.”

A sudden realization

His interest in haptics came to him while studying Computer Engineering at McGill University. Among his professors was the famed Vincent Hayward, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field, and founder of McGill’s Haptics Laboratory. The young Vincent Lévesque quickly joined Professor Hayward’s team, and forged strong ties with the eminent researcher, who also acted as Director of his Master’s project, which dealt with “measuring skin deformation using a high-speed camera”. The objective was to reproduce skin deformations using touch-screen display technology. Later, during his Doctoral studies – also directed by Vincent Hayward – he developed an interest in the virtual display of tactile and interactive graphics and text in braille, using lateral deformation of the skin. This approach led to the development of technology that assists individuals living with visual impairment.

From 2009 to 2011, Vincent Lévesque took advantage of a Post-Doctoral scholarship to the Computer Science Department at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He still retains fond memories of that period of his life, of which he is justifiably proud, because it is the ideal representation of his field of research, namely haptic feedback in the use of touch screens.

He then joined Immersion Corporation, where he rose through the ranks to the position of Senior Researcher in 2015.

Professor Lévesque has been honoured with numerous awards, including Best Paper at the 2012 IEEE Haptics Symposium and Best of CHI at the ACM’s 2011 CHI conference, and quickly earned his reputation as an extremely innovative researcher in the field of haptics.


Within the context of his Doctoral project, Professor Lévesque developed algorithms for a small graphic touch-screen monitor, the STReSS2 (pronounced “Stress-square”), which allows users to read using their fingertips (and not their eyes!). The device produces a variety of tactile sensations that can be combined to generate graphics that users can “see” with their fingers. He explains that the compression and stretching of the skin creates a 3-D illusion. Initially designed for individuals living with visual impairment, the device is now marketed for Tactile Labs Inc. under the name LATERO, and is sold to laboratories for use in their research work.

Areas of research

At ÉTS, Vincent Lévesque plans to continue his research into multiplying the uses of haptics in as many fields as possible. He is particularly interested in the use of haptics in applications for the general public and for all types of human-machine interfaces (HMI).

Virtual reality and video games

According to Professor Lévesque, virtual reality technologies would not be able to transmit virtual illusions without haptics. “Optical illusions alone are not enough to convince our brains that we are elsewhere”, he explains. Video games are another field where haptics has been used for many years, and it has become an integral component of these products.

On the other hand, the dedicated researcher’s fiancée had to laugh at his recent acquisition of a PlayStation console to facilitate “the exploration of possibilities related to haptics in the video game industry”. Happily, it was also his birthday, which gave him another excuse!

On behalf of the Bureau des affaires professorales (Office for Professorial Affairs) and the entire ÉTS community, we are delighted to welcome Professor Vincent Lévesque to ÉTS.

Pour information
Communications Service
Emmanuelle Berthou
514 396-8427

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