On the Edge: Haptic Discrimination of Edge Sharpness

Andy L. Skinner, Christopher Kent*, Jonathan M. Rossiter, Christopher P. Benton, Martin G. M. Groen, Jan M. Noyes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The increasing ubiquity of haptic displays (e. g., smart phones and tablets) necessitates a better understanding of the perceptual capabilities of the human haptic system. Haptic displays will soon be capable of locally deforming to create simple 3D shapes. This study investigated the sensitivity of our haptic system to a fundamental component of shapes: edges. A novel set of eight high quality shape stimuli with test edges that varied in sharpness were fabricated in a 3D printer. In a two alternative, forced choice task, blindfolded participants were presented with two of these shapes side by side (one the reference, the other selected randomly from the remaining set of seven) and after actively exploring the test edge of each shape with the tip of their index finger, reported which shape had the sharper edge. We used a model selection approach to fit optimal psychometric functions to performance data, and from these obtained just noticeable differences and Weber fractions. In Experiment 1, participants performed the task with four different references. With sharpness defined as the angle at which one surface meets the horizontal plane, the four JNDs closely followed Weber's Law, giving a Weber fraction of 0.11. Comparisons to previously reported Weber fractions from other haptic manipulations (e. g. amplitude of vibration) suggests we are sufficiently sensitive to changes in edge sharpness for this to be of potential utility in the design of future haptic displays. In Experiment 2, two groups of participants performed the task with a single reference but different exploration strategies; one was limited to a single touch, the other unconstrained and free to explore as they wished. As predicted, the JND in the free exploration condition was lower than that in the single touch condition, indicating exploration strategy affects sensitivity to edge sharpness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73283
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2013

Keywords

  • 2-DIMENSIONAL ANGLE DISCRIMINATION
  • CONTACT LOCATION DISPLAY
  • TACTILE DISCRIMINATION
  • CURVATURE DISCRIMINATION
  • SHAPE-DISCRIMINATION
  • LINE-DRAWINGS
  • OBJECT SHAPE
  • HUMANS
  • PERCEPTION
  • FINGER

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