Roger W. Cholewiak, Ph.D., Director
Amy A. Collins, B.A.
Carl E. Sherrick, Ph.D. (1925-2005)
Lauren Cesaro, B.A.
Over its 42 years at Princeton University, the research of the Cutaneous Communication Laboratory has had implications for the development of sensory aids for deaf, blind, and deaf-blind persons, and also for those interested in perceptual processes per se. Our aim is to help those people developing devices for sensory impaired people using the skin as the alternative input medium. We do basic research that illuminates how information can be best transmitted through the skin. Our research questions range from the simple ("How intense must a vibration be for you to feel it?") to the complex ("What mechanisms account for the mistakes that people make when trying to identify letters of the alphabet presented close together in time?"). Our experiments involve presenting patterns through contactors that touch the skin. The patterns are produced by the movement (vibration) of the contactors creating a buzzing sensation. This laboratory has had a long-standing interest in both basic and applied research projects. The majority of basic studies with single-site stimuli have used Bimorph or Bruel & Kjaer tactor systems. More complex displays have used the arrays from devices such as the Optacon© and Audiological Engineering's Tactaid-7© to explore the individual differences in tactile pattern processing. We have also been involved in the development and evaluation of new display technologies, such as Sensor Electronics' (Medford, NJ) MTAC high-density array and their Roto-Oscillating Crown tactor system, as well as the Tactile Situation Awareness System (TSAS) developed at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola FL. Currently the efforts of the Cutaneous Laboratory are concentrated on examining how close together vibrating stimuli can be without fusing into one percept, particularly in older persons, and how this is affected by the body site being touched, and the characteristics of the stimuli.