Haptic Data Visualization
Creating haptic data visualizations normally requires programming and knowledge of special APIs. However, prototyping tools like the HITPROTO toolkit (by Paneels) can be used for rapid development of interactions for Haptic Data Visualization (HDV). In this theme we evaluated the user experience associated with the HITPROTO toolkit, explored its potential in creating HDVs for blind users, by their mentors and elaborated a formalised HDV creation process. The outcomes of this work included a journal publication in Computers & Graphics and a poster in IEEE VIS 2014.
S. A. Panëels, P. D. Ritsos, P. J. Rodgers, and J. C. Roberts, “Prototyping 3D haptic data visualizations,” Computers and Graphics, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 179–192, May 2013.
Haptic devices are becoming more widely used as hardware becomes available and the cost of both low and high fidelity haptic devices decreases. One of the application areas of haptics is haptic data visualization (HDV). HDV provides functionality by which users can feel and touch data. Blind and partially sighted users can benefit from HDV, as it helps them manipulate and understand information. However, developing any 3D haptic world is difficult, time-consuming and requires skilled programmers. Therefore, systems that enable haptic worlds to be rapidly developed in a simple environment could enable non-computer skilled users to create haptic 3D interactions. In this article we present HITPROTO: a system that enables users, such as mentors or support workers, to quickly create haptic interactions (with an emphasis on HDVs) through a visual programming interface. We describe HITPROTO and include details of the design and implementation. We present the results of a detailed study using postgraduate students as potential mentors, which provides evidence of the usability of HITPROTO. We also present a pilot study of HITPROTO with a blind user. It can be difficult to create prototyping tools and support 3D interactions, therefore we present a detailed list of ‘lessons learnt’ that provides a set of guidelines for developers of other 3D haptic prototyping tools.
P. D. Ritsos, S. A. Panëels, P. J. Rodgers, and J. C. Roberts, “Towards a Formalized Process for Creating Haptic Data Visualizations,” in Posters presented at the IEEE Conference on Visualization (VIS), October 15-18, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 2013.
Haptic Data Visualization (HDV) is a novel application of haptics. It provides functionality by which users touch and feel data, making it a useful tool for users with vision impairments. However, creating such visualizations usually requires programming knowledge, that support workers and tutors of blind users may not possess. To address this issue we propose a formalized process for creating HDVs using the HITPROTO  toolkit, which requires no programming experience. We further illustrate this process using an example HDV.