Conveying Shape Characteristics

Danyang Fan, Alexa Fay Siu, Wing-Sum Law, Raymond Zhen, Sile O'Modhrain, and Sean Follmer
  Paper  | CHI 2022

From left to right: 1. an example graph with multiple hills and valleys, 2. a laser-cut profile of the same graph, 3. the sliding mechanism for the haptic device, and 3. the tilting mechanism for the haptic device.

More and more, we all interact with data-driven graphs to understand our environments and current events. However, information that is conveyed only visually is inaccessible to blind and visually impaired users. Some alternatives exist, but they are often non-refreshable or prohibitively expensive. We attempt to address this through a 1-DOF haptic device.

Top left shows an image of the whole device. Top right shows the sliding motion, and immediately below that shows the tilting motion. Bottom left shows a top view of the sliding mechanism, and bottom right shows a side view of the tilting mechanism.

Users slide a platform along a rail to actively explore line graphs (a). In Slide-tone, a sliding platform (b) provides position feedback of the trend’s height (d) to the user’s finger. In Tilt-tone, a tilting platform (c) provides inclination feedback of the trend’s local tangent (e) to the user’s finger. Both systems provide sonification and x- and y-value retrieval through speech output.


For this project, I developed an interactive tactile graphic with audio feedback using Unity for comparison with novel 1-DOF haptic device for conveying shape of graphs to blind or visually impaired users. The Unity application was run on a tablet underneath tactile graphics such as the ones shown below, and would use speech-to-text to read aloud the labels on the figures, as well as the x- and y-values of the graphics when a user pressed the corresponding button.

Four examples of traditional tactile graphics.

Examples of traditional tactile graphics