, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 421-430

Salient features in 3-D haptic shape perception


Shape is an important cue for recognizing an object by touch. Several features, such as edges, curvature, surface area, and aspect ratio, are associated with 3-D shape. To investigate the saliency of 3-D shape features, we developed a haptic search task. The target and distractor items consisted of shapes (cube, sphere, tetrahedron, cylinder, and ellipsoid) that differed in several of these features. Exploratory movements were left as unconstrained as possible. Our results show that this type of haptic search task can be performed very efficiently (25 msec/item) and that edges and vertices are the most salient features. Furthermore, very salient local features, such as edges, can also be perceived through enclosure, an exploratory procedure usually associated with global shape. Since the subjects had to answer as quickly as possible, this suggests that speed may be a factor in selecting the appropriate exploratory procedure.

This research was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).