A Tactile Compass for Eyes-Free Pedestrian Navigation

  • Martin Pielot
  • Benjamin Poppinga
  • Wilko Heuten
  • Susanne Boll
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6947)


This paper reports from the first systematic investigation on how to guide people to a destination using the haptic feedback of a mobile phone and its experimental evaluation. The aim was to find a navigation aid that works hands-free, reduces the users’ distraction, and can be realised with widely available handheld devices. To explore the design space we developed and tested different prototypes. Drawing on the results of these tests we present the concept of a tactile compass, which encodes the direction of a location "as the crow flies" in rhythmic patterns and its distance in the pause between two patterns. This paper also reports from the first experimental comparison of such tactile displays with visual navigation systems. The tactile compass was used to continuously display the location of a destination from the user’s perspective (e.g. ahead, close). In a field experiment including the tactile compass and an interactive map three conditions were investigated: tactile only, visual only, and combined. The results provide evidence that cueing spatial locations in vibration patterns can form an effective and efficient navigation aid. Between the conditions, no significant differences in the navigation performance were found. The tactile compass used alone could significantly reduce the amount of distractive interaction and together with the map it improved the participants’ confidence in the navigation system.


We Mobile Accessibility Multi-Modal Interface Novel User Interfaces and Interaction Techniques 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Pielot
    • 1
  • Benjamin Poppinga
    • 1
  • Wilko Heuten
    • 1
  • Susanne Boll
    • 2
  1. 1.OFFIS Institute for Information TechnologyOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.University of OldenburgOldenburgGermany

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