Electrotactile and vibrotactile displays for sensory substitution systems

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 1991 Jan;38(1):1-16. doi: 10.1109/10.68204.


Sensory substitution systems provide their users with environmental information through a human sensory channel (eye, ear, or skin) different from that normally used, or with the information processed in some useful way. We review the methods used to present visual, auditory, and modified tactile information to the skin. First, we discuss present and potential future applications of sensory substitution, including tactile vision substitution (TVS), tactile auditory substitution, and remote tactile sensing or feedback (teletouch). Next, we review the relevant sensory physiology of the skin, including both the mechanisms of normal touch and the mechanisms and sensations associated with electrical stimulation of the skin using surface electrodes (electrotactile (also called electrocutaneous) stimulation). We briefly summarize the information-processing ability of the tactile sense and its relevance to sensory substitution. Finally, we discuss the limitations of current tactile display technologies and suggest areas requiring further research for sensory substitution systems to become more practical.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Data Display*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Sensory Aids*