Tactile tribology- investigation of tactile graphics and perception characterization using event-related potentials

Renganathan, Prasanth
Major Professor
Christian J Schwartz
Committee Member
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Mechanical Engineering
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Mechanical Engineering

Tactile graphics are often used to present visual information to the blind and visually impaired (BVI). However, limitations in the skin’s perceptive resolution and inefficiencies in representing tactile information within a modest amount of page space pose challenges in representing scientific information to the BVI community. To overcome such limitations, it is necessary to study the tribological factors affecting tactile perception and quantify perception by directly observing the neural response to a stimulus. This study investigated the tactile discrimination sensitivity of sighted individuals in discriminating commonly used tactile graphic textures. The logistic model results primarily reinforced the BANA guidelines on texture grouping. There was some evidence to suggest that finger penetration and interlocking with the texture elements also affected texture perception. The friction data showed that there was not a significant amount of difference among the coefficient of friction of various textures, such that COF was not a strong predictor of the perceptive ability. The perception characterization of a tactile stimulus was carried out by recording the event-related potentials (ERP) using an electroencephalography (EEG) device. The use of squared difference comparison proved to be an effective method to identify the presence of amplitude-based events in reaction to the textured stimulus. Increased activity was observed in the primary somatosensory and posterior parietal cortex. There was also evidence to suggest that the adjacent cortical areas were involved in tactile perception tasks. Overall, ERP showed the potential to be an objective and quantitative tool for characterizing the cognitive response to a tactile stimulus.