We present a Model Human Cochlea (MHC), a sensory substitution technique and system that translates auditory information into vibrotactile stimuli using an ambient, tactile display. The model is used in the current study to translate music into discrete vibration signals displayed along the back of the body using a chair form factor. Voice coils facilitate the direct translation of auditory information onto the multiple discrete vibrotactile channels, which increases the potential to identify sections of the music that would otherwise be masked by the combined signal. One of the central goals of this work has been to improve accessibility to the emotional information expressed in music for users who are Deaf or hard of hearing. To this end, we present our prototype of the MHC, two models of sensory substitution to support the translation of existing and new music, and some of the design challenges encountered throughout the development process. Results of a series of experiments conducted to assess the effectiveness of the MHC are discussed, followed by an overview of future directions for this research.
Originally published as:
Karam, M., Russo, F., & Fels, D. I. (2009). Designing the model human cochlea: An ambient crossmodal audio-tactile display. IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 2(3), 160-169.