Haptic Reassurance in the Pitch Black for an Immersive Theatre Experience

van der Linden, Janet; Rogers, Yvonne; Oshodi, Maria; Spiers, Adam; McGoran, David; Cronin, Rafael and O’Dowd, Paul (2011). Haptic Reassurance in the Pitch Black for an Immersive Theatre Experience. In: UbiComp 2011, 17-21 Sep 2011, Beijing, China, pp. 143–152.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2030112.2030133

URL: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2030133


An immersive theatre experience was designed to raise awareness and question perceptions of ‘blindness’, through enabling both sighted and blind members to experience a similar reality. A multimodal experience was created, comprising ambient sounds and narratives – heard through headphones – and an assortment of themed tactile objects, intended to be felt. In addition, audience members were each provided with a novel haptic device that was designed to enhance their discovery of a pitch-black space. An in the wild study of the cultural experience showed how blind and sighted audience members had different ‘felt’ experiences, but that neither was a lesser one. Furthermore, the haptic device was found to encourage enactive exploration and provide reassurance of the environment for both sighted and blind people, rather than acting simply as a navigation guide. We discuss the potential of using haptic feedback to create cultural experiences for both blind and sighted people; rethinking current utilitarian framing of it as assistive technology.

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