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tac.tic: Tactile design language for indoor-outdoor pedestrian navigation

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posted on 26.02.2019, 19:25 by Chirag Murthy
People navigate through indoor and outdoor spaces all the time, and these environments are rich with visual and audio information, and noise. This poses a challenge to someone trying to navigate in a new environment. While GPS services like Google Maps help, they demand visual attention in an already visually stimulating environment. It is not possible to navigate while talking on the phone. They also keep one hand busy. Audio-based turn-by-turn navigation, while useful in certain scenarios, temporarily mutes the outside world for a pedestrian. In addition, these services do not work very well for people with visual and hearing impairments.

tac.tic is a tactile design language for indoor-outdoor pedestrian navigation. It consists of a sleeve with 9 vibrotactile motors in a 3 X 3 grid, that navigates a user through complex environments, by drawing patterns on the forearm. Apart from communicating directions that help navigate people, the design language aims to communicate the complexity of indoor environments, such as going left vs. going up the stairs to the left vs. going down the stairs to the left. Through a process of iterative prototyping and testing with people, the result is a preliminary language for navigating pedestrians within the built environment. It also paves the way for designers to design experiences beyond the audiovisual.




Degree Type

Master's Thesis



Degree Name

  • Master of Design (MDes)


Molly Steenson, John Zimmerman