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Despite a wealth of literature on discrimination thresholds for displacement, force magnitude, stiffness, and viscosity, there is currently a lack of data on our ability to discriminate force directions. Such data are needed in designing haptic rendering algorithms where force direction, as well as force magnitude, are used to encode information such as surface topography. Given that haptic information is typically presented in addition to visual information in a data perceptualization system, it is also important to investigate the extent to which the congruency of visual information affects force-direction discrimination. In this article, the authors report an experiment on the discrimination threshold of force directions under the three display conditions of haptics alone (H), haptics plus congruent vision (HVcong), and haptics plus incongruent vision (HVincong). Average force-direction discrimination thresholds were found to be 18.4., 25.6., and 31.9. for the HVcong, H and HVincong conditions, respectively. The results show that the congruency of visual information significantly affected haptic discrimination of force directions, and that the force-direction discrimination thresholds did not seem to depend on the reference force direction. The implications of the results for designing haptic virtual environments, especially when the numbers of sensors and actuators in a haptic display do not match, are discussed. © 2006, ACM. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


ACM Transactions on Applied Perception

Publication Date





125 - 135