Haptic Virtual Environments for Blind People: Exploratory Experiments with Two Devices


This paper is a fusion of two independent studies investigating related problems concerning the use of haptic virtual environments for blind people: a study in Sweden using a PHANToM 1.5 A and one in the U.K. using an Impulse Engine 3000. In general, the use of such devices is a most interesting option to provide blind people with information about representations of the 3D world, but the restriction at each moment to only one point of contact between observer and virtual object might decrease their effectiveness. The studies investigated the perception of virtual textures, the identification of virtual objects and the perception of their size and angles. Both sighted (blindfolded in one study) and blind people served as participants. It was found (1) that the PHANToM can effectively render textures in the form of sandpapers and simple 3D geometric forms and (2) that the Impulse Engine can effectively render textures consisting of grooved surfaces, as well as 3D objects, properties of which were, however, judged with some over- or underestimation. When blind and sighted participants' performance was compared differences were found that deserves further attention. In general, the haptic devices studied have demonstrated the great potential of force feedback devices in rendering relatively simple environments, in spite of the restricted ways they allow for exploring the virtual world. The results highly motivate further studies of their effectiveness, especially in more complex contexts.


G Jansson

H Petrie

C Colwell

D. Kornbrot

J. Fänger

H. König

K. Billberger

A. Hardwick

S. Furner


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