Designing Natural Haptic Interfaces and Signals

2019-05-14T19:41:07Z (GMT) by Sang-Won Shim
This thesis research is concerned with the exploration, design, and validation of novel haptic technologies and signals that feel natural and meaningful in a calm and pleasant way. Our ultimate goal is to expand the possibilities of human-machine interaction by developing a single tactile display and a set of signals through a systematic design approach. It is generally a challenge to evoke a broad range of emotions with vibrotactile stimulation, especially at low signal intensities. During the first part of this thesis research, three types of prototypes were developed and explored using novel haptic technologies. The first was a circular array braille display consisting of eight small six-pin braille modules. The forty-eight pins were arranged in a circular shape to deliver circular tactile information such as time and direction. The second was a braille stick consisting of sixteen six-pin braille modules arranged in a row. The entire display could be easily grasped in the hand so that tactile information can be easily accessible. The third was a 3-by-3 electroactive polymer actuator array driven at high voltages that gives a subtle “tapping” feel on the skin. However, each of the three prototypes suffered from a limited range of expression and was not pursued further.<br> After the initial prototyping efforts, a 2-by-2 vibrotactile display, the palmScape, was conceived and developed. Custom-designed stimulation patterns based on natural phenomena that feel calm and pleasant were designed and implemented with the palmScape. We use text labels to set the context for the vibrotactile icons that attempt to capture and expresses natural metaphors through variations in signal amplitude, frequency, duration, rhythm, modulation, spatial extent, as well as slow movements. Fourteen participants evaluated twenty vibrotactile icons by rating the perceived valence and arousal levels. The twenty stimuli included sixteen custom-designed vibrotactile icons from this thesis research and four reference patterns from two published studies. The results show that our custom-designed patterns were rated at higher valence levels than the corresponding reference signals at similar arousal ratings. Five of the sixteen vibrotactile icons from this research occupied the fourth quadrant of the valence-arousal space that corresponds to calm and pleasant signals. These findings support the validity of the palmScape display and our signal design approach for achieving a calm and pleasant experience and the possibility of reaching a broader range of expressiveness with vibrotactile signals.<br> Future studies will continue with the design of signals that can express a broader range of metaphors and emotions through the palmScape, and build an emotional evaluation database that can be combined with other modalities. Our work can be further expanded to support an immersive experience with naturalistic-feeling vibrotactile effects and broaden the expressiveness of human-computer interfaces in media consumption, gaming, and other communicative application domains.