Tactile discrimination of material properties: application to virtual buttons for professional appliances
Authors: Y De Pra, S Papetti, F Fontana, H Järveläinen, M Simonato
Published in: Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces 14 (3), 255-269.
Abstract: An experiment is described that tested the possibility to classify wooden, plastic, and metallic objects based on reproduced auditory and vibrotactile stimuli. The results show that recognition rates are considerably above chance level with either unimodal auditory or vibrotactile feedback. Supported by those findings, the possibility to render virtual buttons for professional appliances with different tactile properties was tested. To this end, a touchscreen device was provided with various types of vibrotactile feedback in response to the sensed pressing force and location of a finger. Different virtual buttons designs were tested by user panels who performed a subjective evaluation on perceived tactile properties and materials. In a first implementation, virtual buttons were designed reproducing the vibration recordings of real materials used in the classification experiment: mainly due to hardware limitations of our prototype and the consequent impossibility to render complex vibratory signals, this approach did not prove successful. A second implementation was then optimized for the device capabilities, moreover introducing surface compliance effects and button release cues: the new design led to generally high quality ratings, clear discrimination of different buttons and unambiguous material classification. The lesson learned was that various material and physical properties of virtual buttons can be successfully rendered by characteristic frequency and decay cues if correctly reproduced by the device.