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Comparing Haptic Pattern Matching on Tablets and Phones: Large Screens Are Not Necessarily Better

Tennison, Jennifer L., BS1*; Carril, Zachary S.2; Giudice, Nicholas A., PhD3; Gorlewicz, Jenna L., PhD1

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001274
Original Investigations

Touchscreen-based, multimodal graphics represent an area of increasing research in digital access for individuals with blindness or visual impairments; yet, little empirical research on the effects of screen size on graphical exploration exists. This work probes if and when more screen area is necessary in supporting a pattern-matching task.

PURPOSE Larger touchscreens are thought to have distinct benefit over smaller touchscreens for the amount of space available to convey graphical information nonvisually. The current study investigates two questions: (1) Do screen size and grid density impact a user's accuracy on pattern-matching tasks? (2) Do screen size and grid density impact a user's time on task?

METHODS Fourteen blind and visually impaired individuals were given a pattern-matching task to complete on either a 10.5-in tablet or a 5.1-in phone. The patterns consisted of five vibrating targets imposed on sonified grids that varied in density (higher density = more grid squares). At test, participants compared the touchscreen pattern with a group of physical, embossed patterns and selected the matching pattern. Participants were evaluated on time exploring the pattern on the device and their pattern-matching accuracy. Multiple and logistic regressions were performed on the data.

RESULTS Device size, grid density, and age had no statistically significant effects on the model of pattern-matching accuracy. However, device size, grid density, and age had significant effects on the model for grid exploration. Using the phone, exploring low-density grids, and being older were indicative of faster exploration time.

CONCLUSIONS A trade-off of time and accuracy exists between devices that seems to be task dependent. Users may find a tablet most useful in situations where the accuracy of graphic interpretation is important and is not limited by time. Smaller screen sizes afforded comparable accuracy performance to tablets and were faster to explore overall.

1Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

2Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

3Spatial Informatics Program, School of Computing and Information Science, University of Maine, Orono, Maine *

Submitted: February 1, 2018

Accepted: June 28, 2018

Funding/Support: National Science Foundation (1644538; to JLG).

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: None of the authors have reported a financial conflict of interest.

Author Contributions and Acknowledgments: Conceptualization: JLT, NAG, JLG; Data Curation: JLT, ZSC; Formal Analysis: JLT, ZSC, JLG; Funding Acquisition: JLG; Investigation: JLT; Methodology: JLT, NAG, JLG; Project Administration: JLT; Software: JLT, ZSC; Supervision: NAG, JLG; Validation: JLT; Visualization: JLT; Writing – Original Draft: JLT; Writing – Review & Editing: JLT, ZSC, NAG, JLG.

The authors thank their participants from the 2017 National Federation of the Blind conference and Derrick Smith and Kathryn Nichols (University of Alabama in Huntsville) for their assistance in conducting the user studies.

The authors also thank Steven Rigdon (Saint Louis University) for his expertise and assistance in analyzing the data.

© 2018 American Academy of Optometry