A Pneumatic Tactile Alerting System for the Driving Environment

by Mario Enriquez

Sensory overloaded environments present an opportunity for innovative design in the area of Human-Machine Interaction. In this paper we study the usefulness of a tactile display in the automobile environment. Our approach uses a simple pneumatic pump to produce pulsations of varying frequencies on the driver?s hands through a car steering wheel fitted with inflatable pads. The goal of the project is to evaluate the effectiveness of such a system in alerting the driver of a possible problem, when it is used to augment the visual display presently used in automobiles. A steering wheel that provides haptic feedback using pneumatic pockets was developed to test our hypothesis. The steering wheel can pulsate at different frequencies. The system was tested in a simple multitasking paradigm on several subjects and their reaction times to different stimuli were measured and analyzed. For these experiments, we found that using a tactile feedback device lowers reaction time significantly and that modulating frequency of vibration provides extra information that can reduce the time necessary to identify a problem.

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