Is There a Haptic Topic Map in Your Future?

I ran across a short article today on improving access to maps using non-visual channels, gestures, tactile/haptic interaction and sound, The HaptiMap project aims to make maps accessible through touch, hearing and vision.

The HaptiMap project is sponsored by the EU Commission. There is a collection of recent papers.

One obvious relevance to topic maps is that HaptiMap is collocating information about the same locations from/to different non-visual channels. Hmmm, I have heard that before, but where? Oh, yeah, topic maps are about collocating information about the same subject. That would include information in different channels about the same subject.

A less obvious relevance is for determining when there are multiple representatives of the same subject. Comparing strings, which may or may not be meaningful to a user, is only one test of subject identity. Ever tried to identify the subject spoiled milk by sniffing it? Or a favorite artist or style of music by listening to it? Or a particular style of weave or fabric by touch? All of those sound like identification of subjects to me.

Imagine a map that presents representatives of subjects for merging based on non-symbolic clues experienced by the user. Rather than a music library organized by artist/song title, etc., a continuum that is navigated and merged only on the basis sound. Or representations of subjects in a haptic map found in a VR environment. Or an augmented environment that uses a variety of channels to communicate information about a single subject.

You will have to attend TMRA 2010 (sponsored in part by to see if any haptic topic maps show up this year.

3 Responses to “Is There a Haptic Topic Map in Your Future?”

  1. Robert Barta says:

    1) My experience with EU research projects is that there will hardly be any outcome. That is actually the whole point of these research projects. And I am not being cynical. I can, but there is no need. ;-)

    2) Tactile interfaces have a very low perceptual granularity. Much lower than visual interfaces, at least for most people.

    3) That being written, for maps they might be actually quite suitable. And if these maps are semantic maps, even better!

    I imagine that with haptic maps one would also generate electricity. And if you want to reach the peaks in the map, that’s where the most relevant information is, then you have to generate more energy!

    All problems of humanity solved. Again. :-)

  2. Patrick Durusau says:

    It is a common mistake to think that all or even most research projects will have an “outcome.” They aren’t called “research” projects for no reason.

    Or as Einstein put it: “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded what became the Internet. It has also funded AI research for decades. Win some, lose some. But you only know that post-funding.

  3. Patrick Durusau says:

    Update: I encountered some research on expanding the range of human sensation through the use of optical and auditory illusions to create “arbitrary large ranges of feedback.” See: Illusions of infinity: feedback for infinite worlds by George W. Furnas and Ziaolong Zhang.