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.
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 topicmapslab.de to see if any haptic topic maps show up this year.