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We investigate the potential role of haptics in climate visualization. In existing approaches to climate visualization, different dimensions of climate data such as temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation, and cloud water are typically represented using different visual markers and dimensions such as color, size, intensity, and orientation. Since the number of dimensions in climate data is large and climate data needs to be represented in connection with the topography, purely visual representations overwhelm users. Rather than overloading the visual channel, we investigate an alternative approach in which some of the climate information is displayed through the haptic channel in order to alleviate the perceptual and cognitive load of the user. In this approach, haptic feedback is further used to provide guidance while exploring climate data in order to enable natural and intuitive learning of cause and effect relationships between climate variables. Our experiments with 33 human subjects show that haptic feedback significantly improves the understanding of climate data and the cause and effect relations between climate variables as well as the interpretation of the variations in climate due to changes in terrain.
Date of Publication: July-Dec. 2008