Letters of



Life Sciences





In August of 1999, the first flight team from the Haptics Interface Research Laboratory flew an experiment aboard NASA's KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft. That experiment tested the effectiveness of a vest equipped with a tactile feedback system that "draws" directional lines on a user's back using a phenomenon known as sensory saltation. The directional signals are used to provide the user with a sense of direction and to alleviate some of the problems associated with spatial disorientation. On-ground tests prior to the flight revealed that users who had no prior training with the vest or experience with sensory saltation correctly perceived the directional signals 79% to 91% of the time. This fact reveals the intuitive nature so important to the design of our vest. In-flight evaluation of the vest by our flight team, however, produced interesting results. On average, the flight team members were only able to correctly identify the direction of the signals 44% of the time. The team members reported that the signals felt considerably weaker in micro-g than in a 1-g environment. Our new experiment, which will fly in March, alters the intensity of the signals so it will be possible to chart how our perception of signal intensity changes in altered-gravity environments. The information we collect from our experiment will not only help us determine the cause of the surprising results from our last flight, but it will also provide valuable information to other members of our research community studying the use tactile feedback devices in altered gravity environments.

We will continue to add material to this site as we progress through our project and compile data. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for visiting!

-HIRL Flight Team

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