Lisa Bowers (Ne Benton)

Research Area: Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics



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Website: – Lisa Benton (portal site)


An explorative study into the use of Haptic digital tooling for blind and/or partially sighted people, with particular reference to current practices in the design and generating of surface and form at both an experiential and pedagogic level.


The principle purpose of this empirically based thesis study is to define an interactive interface which when combined with haptic (touch based) digital repository, of differing ‘virtual gratings’, will then open access of touch centric third dimensional landscapes to a specific user group of people with blind and visual impairments, who wish to engage within the digital tactile processes of creative arts, surface pattern/fashion, design practice or indeed engineering industries.

The primary points of discourse within the study as a whole are 1) to offer multi-modal fully interactive haptic “gratings” which can be easily mapped to the blind/VI user own working tactile knowledge. 2) to clearly define an overview of a remote repository that offers kinaesthetic tactile intercourses of varied surfaces mimicked from real life. 3) to show  the potential effective links into widening participation (WP) through collaborative working process of researcher and user group.

This study will follow the hypothesis that an increase of virtual ‘realness’ and an enhancement of accessible multi modal mapped data, will allow visually impaired participants to commit surface patterning to memory and therefore be able to engage with digital surface design on a more accessible level. An initial feasibility study has been undertaken; the study was designed to interrogate the structures and boundaries of current haptic technologies (the state of the art –SoA) in the exemplar form of the PHANToM haptic probe, whilst also observing tactile user interactions with analogue surface process. The feasibility study aims were to understand SoA whilst exploring users fine motor skills and orientation techniques observed from ’typical’ creative process to then diagnostically scope findings for points to consider within future test studies.

Future works and disseminations will offer empirical studies working with the chosen haptic device in collaboration with the focus user group. The testing phase will initially follow Wade’s theory Nine in Hole Peg Test (NHPT) via means of virtual and analogue testing rigs. Further tests will be adapted to suit specific user needs and additions will then be created and tested. Finally the third phase will be set around a repository of textures, which will offer users a plethora of varied surfaces and shapes, to use as part of the standard surface pattern making process, results will then be analysed and disseminated.


Bowers.L, (2010) Young Researchers Futures Forum‘(RAEng) Young Researchers Futures Forum’ Conference, Reading University, Sept 2010. 

Norgate.S, Ormerod. M, Bowers.L, (2009)Tactile Research Group (TRG 2009)Psychometrics Conference accepted and has been presented Nov 2009, Boston (MA)

Bowers.L, Avery.R (2009) ‘Scratching the Surface – through guided discovery’ 3rd Annual Conference Teaching and Widening Participation Committee. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Sept 2009

Bowers. L, Avery. R (2009).Scratching the Surface Gallery event, Sensory impaired Gallery exhibit, York St John University, May 2009.

2012 © Adaptive Systems Research Group

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