Haptic & Tangible Interaction for tactile exploration of 3D Maps without Vision


Tactile & haptic interaction, user-centered design, visual impairments, prototyping, evaluations, Spatial cognition.


Wayfinding is a major issue for people with visual impairments (PVIs). In addition to tools such as long canes or dogs to assist mobility, PVIs need assistance to be oriented and find their way to a destination. They can rely on tactile maps for preparing the journey, and they can rely on a personal mobility device (GPS) during the journey to be guided. However, none of these tools is sufficient to provide total independence. In addition, tactile maps are missing because their production rely on craft handed techniques mastered by professionals (mainly Orientation and Mobility Instructors as well as Tactile Document Makers). Finally, recent observations show that interactive tactile maps can be of major interest to provide independence.

The ANR ACTIVmap (2020-2023) focuses on the issues of orientation and mobility of people with visual impairments. Today, thanks to the availability of open and collaborative data, combined with different means to produce maps augmented with adapted interactions (Fig.1), it is possible to consider the development of adapted and usable multimodal interactive maps in a semi-automatic way.

Several approaches will be explored in ACTIVmap to adapt the automatic map design process to the specific needs of users with various visual impairments and their potential contexts of use, including different representations of space: raised-lines maps and diagrams, additive printing, verbal descriptions, etc. These artefacts will be augmented with multimodal interactions (tangible, haptic or sound) in prototypes, which usability will be evaluated by users in different contexts.



The PhD project aims at investigating multimodal eyes-free interaction with tactile maps. We will address two scenarios of usage: 1/ general spatial learning and preparation of a pedestrian journey (i.e. before departing), and 2/ orientation, guidance and spatial description during a pedestrian journey. These scenarios can occur, for instance, during Orientation & Mobility lessons where: 1/ a teacher and a PVI prepare a journey before departing; 2/ the PVI is experiencing the journey with a mobile device. Different prototypes as well as consequences on spatial cognition will be evaluated in different contexts.

The main objectives of the thesis project are:

Student profile

Master or Engineer diploma in Cognitive sciences, Computer Science (HCI), Design, Psychology, Ergonomics. This internship is granted by the ANR ActivMap project.


3 years starting from September or October 2020


IRIT - Cherchons pour Voir lab, in Toulouse, France, with regular travels to the LIMOS, Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Please send:



See also

PDF version