Computing at Glasgow University
Paper ID: 7834
DCS Tech Report Number: TR-2004-188

Sensory Substitution Using Tactile Pin Arrays: Human Factors, Technology and Applications

Publication Type: Tech Report (internal)
Appeared in:
Page Numbers : 25
Publisher: N/A
Year: 2004

This report is a compilation of results obtained from the 3 year EPSRC funded project “An investigation of the use of tactile displays for visualisation for blind people” (project number GR/S53251/01(P)) during 2004. A review of the field of tactile display is presented, with emphasis on pin-array devices for normal mechanical skin indentation. The growth of the field from sensory substitution applications, through teleoperation and haptics for virtual environments in covered, along with salient human perceptual and psychophysical data. The report concludes with reflection on how recent advances in tactile display technology might be used to make visualisations available to the visually impaired community. The appendices describe two experiments designed to advance our understanding of perceptual issues surrounding pin array devices for active exploration. Both experiments utilise the VTPlayer tactile mouse from Virtouch Inc, to present tactile stimuli to the user that can be actively explored. The first experiment investigates perception of line gradient. The results show that users can reliably perceive whether a gradient is positive or negative within roughly ±5o of the horizontal. While not as accurate as force feedback devices or raised paper diagrams, the results suggest that tactile displays may be an economically viable alternative for presenting accessible diagrams to the blind computer users. The second appendix describes a proposed experimental design for texture perception with a tactile display for active exploration.

Keywords: haptic, tactile, blind, visually impaired

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