Tactile-speech perception with gamified training on the vibey transcribey
Access to information is indispensable in this modern age, and more inclusive methods for communication should be explored so that all people may benefit from this information. Tactile communication systems have many potential applications in a variety of conditions and scenarios. Previous tactile-speech systems convey only phonemic or prosodic elements of speech, but both are important. In the current study, a novel method of transforming speech into vibrotactile sensations by encoding and displaying both segmental and suprasegmental features was implemented with a low-cost, sleeve-worn device. An experimental group of participants (n = 6) learned to differentiate tactile words by playing training games in their home while a control group (n = 6) did not. Although the games improved participants' ability to differentiate tactile words during training, results from tests taken before and after training indicated that participants did not improve in their ability to identify tactile phonemes, or their ability to perceive tactile prosody, and did not experience an increase in tactile-auditory sensory integration. Achieving tactile-speech perception remains an ambitious goal with numerous parameters. This configuration of encoding dimensions, stimulation method, body site, and training techniques did not demonstrate tactile-speech perception, but the ideas and materials used here may be expanded and/or altered for future work. These materials are made available on the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/3f5nu/), which includes the encoding scheme design, an implementation of that design, electronic schematics, firmware, 3D models, stimuli, training game source code and assets, evaluation software, and analysis software. Future studies may wish to employ these materials as the landscape of tactile communication merits further exploration to advance inclusivity.