Perception of vibrotactile distance on the back

Myrthe A. Plaisier (Corresponding author), Lotte Sap, Astrid M.L. Kappers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Vibrotactile displays worn on the back can be used as sensory substitution device. Often vibrotactile stimulation is chosen because vibration motors are easy to incorporate and relatively cheap. When designing such displays knowledge about vibrotactile perception on the back is crucial. In the current study we investigated distance perception. Biases in distance perception can explain spatial distortions that occur when, for instance, tracing a shape using vibration. We investigated the effect of orientation (horizontal vs vertical), the effect of positioning with respect to the spine and the effect of switching vibration motors on sequentially versus simultaneously. Our study includes four conditions. The condition which had a horizontal orientation with both vibration motors switching on sequentially on the same side of the spine was chosen is the baseline condition. The other three conditions were compared to this baseline condition. We found that distances felt longer in the vertical direction than in the horizontal direction. Furthermore, distances were perceived to be longer when vibration motors were distributed on both sides of the spine compared to when they were on the same side. Finally, distances felt shorter when vibration motors were switched on simultaneously compared to sequentially. In the simultaneous case a distance of 4 cm was not clearly perceived differently than a distance of 12 cm. When designing vibrotactile displays these anisotropies in perceived distance need to be taken into account because otherwise the intended shape will not match the perceived shape. Also, dynamically presented distances are more clearly perceived than static distances. This finding supports recommendations made in previous studies that dynamic patterns are easier to perceive than static patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17876
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020


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