Materials used in a Spatial Learning Skills study

Here we report an extract of the materials, methods and results used in a study with blind and visually impaired children. To read more, download the paper.

A: Child performing the tactile symbol recognition test. B: Tactile symbol recognition and enumeration in noise test. C: Memory spanning of sequences of tactile symbols test.

A: Experimental setup with a tactile display on the left side and the PC running PadDraw software on the right side. Picture shows an example of trial of the spatial memory test. B: Spatial memory test with 4×4 matrix and 4 targets. C: Shapes recognition test with a rectangle (top-left) as target and three distractors.

Possible geometrical shapes of the shapes recognition test. The first row from the top shows the three possible canonical shapes. The rows from the second to the fourth show the possible distractors. Each row from the second to the fourth shows one of the three possible levels of difficulty of distractors in decreasing order (3,2,1).

Normalized accuracy enhancement (SEM indicated) across sessions in the shapes recognition test (A) and in the spatialmemory test (B) using programmable tactile displays. Asterisks indicate a significantly larger accuracy enhancement relative to the baseline (* P<0.05)

Leo, F., Cocchi, E., & Brayda, L. (2017). The Effect of Programmable Tactile Displays on Spatial Learning Skills in Children and Adolescents of Different Visual Disability. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering25(7), 861-872.
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Submitted Papers but not yet reviewed

Nadine Besse, Samuel Rosset, Juan José Zárate, Elisabetta Ferrari, Luca Brayda and Herbert Shea, “Scalable latching assistive haptic display using a shape memory polymer membrane”, submitted to IEEE Transactions on Haptics 2017

The Effect of Programmable Tactile Displays on Spatial Learning Skills in Children and Adolescents of Different Visual Disability


Vision loss has severe impacts on physical, social and emotional well-being. The education of blind children poses issues as many scholar disciplines (e.g. geometry, mathematics) are normally taught by heavily relying on vision. Touch-based assistive technologies are potential tools to provide graphical contents to blind users, improving learning possibilities and social inclusion. Raised-lines drawings are still the golden standard, but stimuli cannot be reconfigured or adapted and the blind person constantly requires assistance. Although much research concerns technological development, little work concerned the assessment of programmable tactile graphics, in educative and rehabilitative contexts. Here we designed, on programmable tactile displays, tests aimed at assessing spatial memory skills and shapes recognition abilities. Tests involved a group of blind and a group of low vision children and adolescents in a four-week longitudinal schedule. After establishing subject-specific difficulty levels, we observed a significant enhancement of performance across sessions and for both groups. Learning effects were comparable to raised paper control tests: however, our setup required minimal external assistance. Overall, our results demonstrate that programmable maps are an effective way to display graphical contents in educative/rehabilitative contexts. They can be at least as effective as traditional paper tests yet providing superior flexibility and versatility.
Fabrizio Leo
Published in: IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering ( Volume: PP, Issue: 99 )
Bibtex: leo2017effect
DOI: 10.1109/TNSRE.2016.2619742
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Published Papers

J.J. Zarate et al, “Keep in Touch: Portable Haptic Display With 192 High Speed Taxels”, CHI 2017, May 2017, Denver, USA

N. Besse, S. Rosset, J. Zarate and H. Shea, “Flexible active skin: large reconfigurable arrays of individually addressed shape memory polymer actuators”, in press, Advanced Materials Technologies (2017)

Zarate and H. Shea, “Using pot-magnets to enable stable and scalable electromagnetic tactile displays”, IEEE Transactions on Haptics (2016) doi: 10.1109/TOH.2016.2591951 <read more>

Leo, F., Cocchi, E., & Brayda, L. (2016). The Effect of Programmable Tactile Displays on Spatial Learning Skills in Children and Adolescents of Different Visual Disability. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. <read more>. Get the PDF here

Nadine Besse, Herbert Shea, Juan Zarate, Samuel Rosset, Luca Brayda. “4×4 SMP demo” Haptics Symposium 2016 conference, April 8-11, 2016 | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tonelli, Alessia, Luca Brayda, and Monica Gori. “Depth echolocation task in novices sighted people.” PERCEPTION. Vol. 44. 1 OLIVERS YARD, 55 CITY ROAD, LONDON EC1Y 1SP, ENGLAND: SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD, 2015.

Juan Jose Zarate, Giordano Tosolini, Simona Petroni, Herbert Shea, Massimo De Vittorio, „Optimization of the force and power consumption of a microfabricated magnetic actuator for haptic applications“, Sensors and Actuators A: Physical Get the PDF here

Tonelli, Alessia, Luca Brayda, and Monica Gori. “Task-dependent calibration of auditory spatial perception through environmental visual observation.” Frontiers in systems neuroscience 9 (2015).

Sophie Marchi, Alberto Casu, Franco Bertora, Athanassia Athanassiou, Despina Fragouli. “Highly Magneto-Responsive Elastomeric Films Created by a Two-Step Fabrication Process” (ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2015, 7 (34), pp 19112–19118) <read more>

Juan Jose Zarate, Giordano Tosolini, Simona Petroni, Herbert Shea, Massimo De Vittorio, “Design and optimization of microfabricated planar coils for tactile displays”, in Proceedings of International Conference of Micro and Nano Engineering (MNE 2014), Lausanne, Switzerland Get the  PDF here

Wissawin Kunchornsup, Fabrizio Leo, Franco Bertora, Despina Fragouli, Simona Petroni and Luca Giulio Brayda. “Study of Static Tactile Detection Threshold via Pneumatically Driven Polydimethylsiloxane Membrane”, Workshop Tactile/Haptic user interface for Tabletops and Tablets, within ACM Interactive Tabletop and Surfaces (ITS2014), Dresden, Germany. Get the PDF here

Luca Brayda, Claudio Campus, Mariacarla Memeo, and Laura Lucagrossi ,The importance of visual experience, gender and emotion in the assessment of an assistive haptic mouse, IEEE Transactions on Haptics.

Grzegorz Bubak, Alberto Ansaldo, David Gendron, Luca Brayda, Luca Ceseracciu, Davide Ricci , Parylene coated carbon nanotube actuators for tactile stimulation, International conference SPIE Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) XVII.