Tactor devices : using tactile interface designs for mobile digital appliances : a practice-based research thesis for the fulfilment of a Master of Design degree, College of Design, Fine Arts, and Music, Massey University, Wellington
This Thesis focuses the potential of communication interfaces that use tactors (tactile actuators) to improve user interactions with mobile digital devices which are currently based on audio and visual technologies. It presents two product concepts, which use tactile signals to enable new ways in tele-operations, such as tactile telecommunication and tactile navigation. Tactor interfaces, although still in its infancy as elements of modern digital communication and technology, have considerable potential for the future as designers attempt to maximise the use of all human senses in people's interaction with technology. Only the military and a few entertainment companies have introduced tactile signals into Human-Computer Interactions (HCI). Human touch perception uses the hands as the main sensing organs. They perceive tactile signals while handling, typing or navigating with digital devices and receive direct confirmation of physical actions. In contrast to other senses, touch perceptions are based on interactions with the sensed objects. The study analyses, experiments and evaluates if these interactions are useful in interface designs and recommends how tactile stimulations can be introduced to interface designs besides images and sounds that dominate the control of current digital appliances. Tactile actuators and sensors enable devices to use tactile signals, such as impulses and vibrations, to communicate with the users. Users and tactor devices will be able to communicate in a physical and direct way. Touch reflective interfaces, could react like living creatures that respond to touch, for example a cat that starts purring when touched. Digital product design is always challenged to create human-computer interactions that meet people's needs. Designing digital devices is difficult because they are not necessarily three-dimensional objects. They are stimulator of the human senses and can be as small as the sensing nerve endings that detect sensations. By miniaturisation, form and function become invisible and Product Design is increasingly incorporating Process Design that explores and enables new interactions between users and products to work interactively and efficiently. The study is divided into four chapters: Chapter 1 gives an introduction to the thesis. Chapter 2 presents a survey on current literature which examines the five human senses to define the limits and possibilities in interface design. It reviews current research on materials and technologies as well as the psychology and physiology of touch as a potential sense in human-computer interactions. It evaluates the technical feasibilty of tactile signal performances and how they could be used as tele-touch codes in navigation and telecommunication. Chapter 3 is focused on primary research undertaken to extend the knowledge in tactile sensing. It includes experiments, questionnaires, and concepts that give examples how tactor interfaces can be used in tele-operations. This section focuses on specific user groups, that may primarily benefit from tactile signal transmissions, such as sight and hearing-impaired people or professionals who have to deal with limited perceptions like fire fighters, for example. These case studies are aimed at exploring and expanding a wider range of possibilities in tactile device innovations in the networked society. Chapter 4 gives a conclusion of the research.