Research into haptic object recognition suggests that matching stimulus input to a system of geon-like structural descriptions may play an important role in this perceptual modality, as it does in vision. The recognition of objects from tactile pictures or diagrams is an important skill for blind people, yet relatively little research has been conducted in attempts to optimize tactile picture design. This paper explains a novel, theoretically-motivated design for constructing tactile pictures (the TexyForm system). In a single experiment contrasting blindfolded sighted, early blind, and late blind participants, we demonstrate that TexyForm pictures were identified significantly more frequently than standard, visually realistic, tactile pictures. In particular, early blind participants improved their identification from 12.5% with visually realistic pictures to 50% with TexyForm pictures. All participants rated the TexyForm pictures as preferable to visually realistic pictures. We argue that using current theoretical knowledge and experimental data to drive tactile picture design is likely to lead to improvements in the usability of materials for blind people.
This peer-reviewed paper published in European Psychologist, reports on an experimental study investigating a novel, theoretically-motivated design for constructing tactile pictures for the blind (the TexyForm system), developed by the first author. The system tackles the complex and neglected problem of presenting 3D information in a 2D form, in a meaningful way for those with little or no visual experience and hence limited understanding of pictorial perspective. The TexyForm design was based on experimental research on 3D haptic object recognition in blind and sighted people, in order to enable stimulus input to more easily match existing internal representations of objects. In addition to practical design applications, the work adds to the debate surrounding blind people's understanding of perspective and contributes to the literature on haptic perception by experimentally testing a novel theory of 3D haptic object recognition proposed by the authors. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education