Perception of Tactile Graphics: Embossings Versus Cutouts

in Multisensory Research
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Graphical information, such as illustrations, graphs, and diagrams, are an essential complement to text for conveying knowledge about the world. Although graphics can be communicated well via the visual modality, conveying this information via touch has proven to be challenging. The lack of easily comprehensible tactile graphics poses a problem for the blind. In this paper, we advance a hypothesis for the limited effectiveness of tactile graphics. The hypothesis contends that conventional graphics that rely upon embossings on two-dimensional surfaces do not allow the deployment of tactile exploratory procedures that are crucial for assessing global shape. Besides potentially accounting for some of the shortcomings of current approaches, this hypothesis also serves a prescriptive purpose by suggesting a different strategy for conveying graphical information via touch, one based on cutouts. We describe experiments demonstrating the greater effectiveness of this approach for conveying shape and identity information. These results hold the potential for creating more comprehensible tactile drawings for the visually impaired while also providing insights into shape estimation processes in the tactile modality.

Perception of Tactile Graphics: Embossings Versus Cutouts

in Multisensory Research

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References

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Figures

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    (A) Examples of line drawings of common objects used in studies of visual and tactile recognition. (B) Subjects’ drawings (lower row) of felt embossings (upper row) highlight inaccuracies in shape perception (Kalia and Sinha, 2011).

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    Exploratory procedures used by observers for assessing different attributes of tactile stimuli (Lederman and Klatzky, 1987). This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    (Top bars) Recognition performance (proportion of subjects who successfully recognized a given object) in the embossed condition and cutout condition. (Bottom bars) Average performance (proportion of objects correctly recognized) of subjects when presented with embossed or cutout objects. Error bars represent standard error. Data with embossings are derived from Kalia and Sinha (2011).

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    Improvement in recognition with the cutouts as a function of the complexity of the object image. Ratings of object complexity were obtained from Kalia and Sinha (2011). This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    (Top bars) Amount of time subjects spent exploring the stimuli before recognizing the depicted object in the embossed and cutout conditions. (Bottom bars) Average time until recognition across subjects when presented with embossed or cutout objects. Error bars represent standard error. Data with embossings are derived from Kalia and Sinha (2011).

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    (A) The set of unfamiliar shapes used in Experiment 2. (B) Stimuli fabricated using a 3D printer. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    (Top row) Original shapes. (Lower left in each panel) Drawings made after exploring embossed versions of original shapes. (Lower right in each panel) Drawings made after exploring cutout versions of original shapes. This figure is published in colour in the online version.

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    The proportion of times that raters chose drawings from the embossing versus cutout conditions as more closely matching the original object.

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