Regulating human behavior with vibrotactile stimulation

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Pinni B Building, Campus Chapel B 5103, Kanslerinrinne 1

Doctoral defence of M.A. (Psyc.) Jani Lylykangas

Regulating human behavior with vibrotactile stimulation

The field of science of the dissertation is Interactive technology.

The opponent is Associate Professor, Ph.D. Mounia Ziat (Northern Michigan University, USA). Professor Veikko Surakka acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Artificially produced touch sensations can regulate human behavior

The sense of touch has a central role in human behavior. Touch sensations can direct our attention, control our body movements, and evoke various emotional experiences. Thus, touch can regulate human functions in many ways. This is why the sense of touch has been recently started to utilize as an information channel in human-technology interaction. Many devices and applications provide artificially produced touch sensations as exemplified by vibrating video game controllers, vibration alarm of a mobile phone, and vibration feedback received when pressing a touch screen. Touch information is useful especially for visually and aurally impaired people. Earlier research has shown that in many situations the sense of touch can mediate information even faster and more efficiently as compared to visual and auditory senses, thus, making it beneficial for all users.

For now, however, there is relatively little knowledge about how functional artificial touch information really is from the perspective of human perception and behavior. More research is needed to ascertain, do the users interpret the meaning of the touch sensations as the designer has intended, and do the stimulations induce a desired bodily response. This doctoral thesis investigated, what kind of instantaneous and first impression –based (i.e., intuitive) interpretations people make from vibrational instructions used to guide the tempo of physical exercise. Another aim focused on investigating how efficiently technology-mediated vibrations can function in guiding body movements in comparison to visual instructions. Emotional experiences were measured to confirm that the used stimulations are clearly noticeable but not overly unpleasant. The studies were conducted in controlled laboratory conditions and in a real use situation during a physical exercise class.

The results of this thesis showed that artificially produced touch information can diversely regulate human behavior. By means of systematic experimental research, it is possible to design vibrational instructions to, for example, chance tempo of physical activity so that most people interpret the meaning of the instructions in uniform fashion even without teaching them prior to the usage. Vibration instructions were mostly experienced as pleasant, and in many situations they initiated body movements more efficiently than visual instructions. The results can be utilized, for example, in driving. In a simulated driving task a vibrating gas pedal turned out to be advantageous. Vibrating warning signal significantly facilitated drivers’ brake reaction time in comparison to the use of visual alarm. In general, the results of the thesis can be used in designing new applications taking advantage of touch-mediated information. By the aid of artificially generated touch sensations, it would be possible to improve safety and usability of human-technology interaction by reducing the burden caused by visually and aurally presented information, for example, in traffic and during physical exercise.

The dissertation is published in the publication series of Dissertations in Interactive Technology, Number 25, Tampere 2017. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1775, Tampere University Press 2017.


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