A Phonemic-Based Tactile Display for Speech Communication

IEEE Transactions on Haptics


Despite a long history of research, the development of synthetic tactual aids to support the communication of speech has proven to be a difficult task. The current paper describes a new tactile speech device based on the presentation of phonemic-based tactile codes. The device consists of 24 tactors under independent control for stimulation at the forearm. Using properties that include frequency and waveform of stimulation, amplitude, spatial location, and movement characteristics, unique tactile codes were designed for 39 consonant and vowel phonemes of the English language. The strategy for mapping the phonemes to tactile symbols is described, and properties of the individual phonemic codes are provided. Results are reported for an exploratory study of the ability of ten young adults to identify the tactile symbols. The participants were trained to identify sets of consonants and vowels, before being tested on the full set of 39 tactile codes. The results indicate a mean recognition rate of 86% correct within one to four hours of training across participants. Thus, these results support the viability of a phonemic-based approach for conveying speech information through the tactile sense.

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