This paper investigates the dynamic, distributed pressure response of the human fingerpad in vivo when it first makes contact with an object. A flat probe was indented against the fingerpad at a 20 to 40 degree angle. Ramp-and-hold and sinusoidal displacement trajectories were applied to the fingerpad within a force range of 0–2 N. The dynamic spatial distribution of the pressure response was measured using a tactile array sensor. Both the local pressure variation and the total force exhibited nonlinear stiffness (exponential with displacement) and significant temporal relaxation. The shape of the contact pressure distribution could plausibly be described by an inverted paraboloid. A model based on the contact of a rigid plane (the object) and a linear viscoelastic sphere (the fingerpad), modified to include a nonlinear modulus of elasticity, can account for the principal features of the distributed pressure response.

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