by Lina K. Klein, Guido Maiello, Vivian C. Paulun, Roland W. Fleming
We rarely experience difficulty picking up objects, yet of all potential contact points on the surface, only a small proportion yield effective grasps. Here, we present extensive behavioral data alongside a normative model that correctly predicts human precision grasping of unfamiliar 3D objects. We tracked participants’ forefinger and thumb as they picked up objects of 10 wood and brass cubes configured to tease apart effects of shape, weight, orientation, and mass distribution. Grasps were highly systematic and consistent across repetitions and participants. We employed these data to construct a model which combines five cost functions related to force closure, torque, natural grasp axis, grasp aperture, and visibility. Even without free parameters, the model predicts individual grasps almost as well as different individuals predict one another’s, but fitting weights reveals the relative importance of the different constraints. The model also accurately predicts human grasps on novel 3D-printed objects with more naturalistic geometries and is robust to perturbations in its key parameters. Together, the findings provide a unified account of how we successfully grasp objects of different 3D shape, orientation, mass, and mass distribution.