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Design of a haptic data visualization system for people with visual impairments

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2 Author(s)
J. P. Fritz ; Imetrix Inc., Cataumet, MA, USA ; K. E. Barner

Data visualization is a technique used to explore real or simulated data by representing it in a form more suitable for comprehension. This form is usually visual since vision provides a means to perceive large quantities of spatial information quickly. However, people who are blind or visually impaired must rely on other senses to accomplish this perception. Haptic interface technology makes digital information tangible, which can provide an additional medium for data exploration and analysis. Unfortunately, the amount of information that can be perceived through a haptic interface is considerably less than that which can be perceived through vision, so a haptic environment must be enhanced to aid the comprehension of the display. This enhancement includes speech output and the addition of object properties such as friction and texture. Textures are generated which can be modified according to a characteristic or property of the object to which it is applied. For example, textures can be used as an analog to color in graphical displays to highlight variations in data. Taking all of these factors into account, methods for representing various forms of data are presented here with the goal of providing a haptic visualization system without the need for a visual component. The data forms considered include one-, two-, and three-dimensional (1-D, 2-D, and 3-D) data which can be rendered using points, lines, surfaces, or vector fields similar to traditional graphical displays. The end result is a system for the haptic display of these common data sets which is accessible for people with visual impairments

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering  (Volume:7 ,  Issue: 3 )