Dualpanto: A Haptic Device That Enables Blind Users to Continuously Interact With Virtual Worlds

Oliver Schneider, Jotaro Shigeyama, Robert Kovacs, Thijs Jan Roumen, Sebastian Marwecki, Nico Boeckhoff, Daniel Amadeus Gloeckner, Jonas Bounama, Patrick Baudisch

In Proceedings of the 31th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST ’18)

paper: PDF
ACM Digital Library

DualPanto is a haptic device that enables blind users to track moving objects while acting in a virtual world.

As shown in the figure abowe (b), the device features two handles. Users interact with DualPanto by actively moving the me handle with one hand and passively holding on to the it handle with the other. DualPanto applications generally use the me handle to represent the user’s avatar in the virtual world and the it handle to represent some other moving entity, such as the opponent in a soccer game.

interacting with DualPanto

me handle: As shown in the figure above, DualPanto’s applications generally use the me handle to represent the user’s avatar in the virtual world.

(a) The user moves around and explores the virtual environment, such as a series of rooms in a shooter game, by moving the me handle. The device uses a direct 1:1 mapping, similar to the mapping of a touch screen; returning the handle to the same location in the physical world returns the avatar to same location in the virtual world.
(b) The knob itself allows users to rotate their avatar. The pointed end of the handle represents the direction the avatar faces.
(c) When the user pushes against a wall, the me handle resists by providing force feedback.
(d) The me handle plays back haptic icons, for example, a short knockback when the player is hit by a projectile.

it handle: As shown in the figure above, DualPanto applications use the it handle to render one selected moving object, such as the opponent in a first-person shooter.

(a) If the object represented by the it handle moves, so does the handle. The handle is actuated only by the device, i.e., it will resist users trying to move it. By allowing the it handle to guide their hand, users can track the associated object, e.g., feel how the opponent moves and obtain a sense of where it is currently located with respect to the user’s avatar.
(b) At the same time, the actuated knob conveys to the user what direction it is facing. The it handle may also display haptic icons, such as an impulse when the opponent is shot.

hardware implementation

DualPanto implements the haptic pantograph design. We chose this design because it is planar and therefore appropriate for a single registered workspace without collisions; the two pantographs operate independently, unlike constructions where two pantographs control a single end-effector. We based our implementation on the open-source Haply platform.
The two pantographs are mounted individually onto a tripod using a 3D-printed bracket. We typically weight the tripod’s legs to improve stability. The linkages are made of 3 mm laser-cut aluminum, which is rigid enough to avoid deflection. This maintains the vertical distance between the two handles.
The me and it handles are mounted to the arms of the pantographs by a 3D-printed bracket. The me handle contains a small motor (Pololu, 6V) with a gear ratio of 10:1, which is easily back-drivable for user input. The it handle has a higher gear ratio of 75:1 to provide enough force for system output.
To represent direction, we mounted a 3D-printed, asymmetric tip onto each of DualPanto’s handles. After experimenting with several designs, the “flattened teardrop” design (8x10x15 mm) performed best, in that holding this design between index finger and thumb clearly conveys its orientation any time.

We presented DualPanto, a haptic device that enables blind users to interact with spatial virtual environments that contain objects moving in real-time, as is the case in sports or shooter games. The key feature is that its two haptic in/output handles are spatially registered to each other, which enables blind players to navigate, track, dodge, and aim. In our user study, blind participants reported very high enjoyment when playing a soccer game (6.5/7).
2023 robert kovacs