AUTHORS: Tivadar RI, Arnold RC, Turoman N, Knebel JF, Murray MM

Scientific Reports, 12(1): 9728, June 2022


Dashboard-mounted touchscreen tablets are now common in vehicles. Screen/phone use in cars likely shifts drivers’ attention away from the road and contributes to risk of accidents. Nevertheless, vision is subject to multisensory influences from other senses. Haptics may help maintain or even increase visual attention to the road, while still allowing for reliable dashboard control. Here, we provide a proof-of-concept for the effectiveness of digital haptic technologies (hereafter digital haptics), which use ultrasonic vibrations on a tablet screen to render haptic perceptions. Healthy human participants (N = 25) completed a divided-attention paradigm. The primary task was a centrally-presented visual conjunction search task, and the secondary task entailed control of laterally-presented sliders on the tablet. Sliders were presented visually, haptically, or visuo-haptically and were vertical, horizontal or circular. We reasoned that the primary task would be performed best when the secondary task was haptic-only. Reaction times (RTs) on the visual search task were fastest when the tablet task was haptic-only. This was not due to a speed-accuracy trade-off; there was no evidence for modulation of VST accuracy according to modality of the tablet task. These results provide the first quantitative support for introducing digital haptics into vehicle and similar contexts.

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