In this paper we describe several experiments whose goal is to evaluate the role of plantar vibrotactile feedback in enhancing the realism of walking experiences in multimodal virtual environments. In order to achieve this goal we built an interactive and a non-interactive multimodal feedback system. While during the use of the interactive system subjects physically walked, during the use of the non-interactive system the locomotion was simulated while subjects were sitting on a chair. In both the configurations subjects were exposed to auditory and audio-visual stimuli presented with and without the haptic feedback. Results of the experiments provide a clear preference towards the simulations enhanced with haptic feedback showing that the haptic channel can lead to more realistic experiences in both interactive and non-interactive configurations. The majority of subjects clearly appreciated the added feedback. However, some subjects found the added feedback disturbing and annoying. This might be due on one hand to the limits of the haptic simulation and on the other hand to the different individual desire to be involved in the simulations. Our findings can be applied to the context of physical navigation in multimodal virtual environments as well as to enhance the user experience of watching a movie or playing a video game.
I E E E Transactions on Haptics, 2013, Vol 6, Issue 1, p. 35-45