Haptic Communication in Collaborative Virtual Environments

Jinling Wang, Amine Chellali, Caroline G.L. Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To understand the interaction between haptic and verbal communication, we quantified the relative effect of verbal, haptic, and haptic-plus-verbal feedback in a collaborative virtual pointing task. Background: Collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) provide a medium for interaction among remote participants. Better understanding of the role of haptic feedback as a supplement to verbalization can improve the design of CVEs. Methods: Thirty-six participants were randomly paired into 18 dyads to complete a 2-D pointing task in a CVE. In a mixed experimental design, participants completed the task in three communication conditions: haptic only (H), verbal only (V), and haptic plus verbal (HV). The order of the conditions presented to the participants was counterbalanced. Results: The time to task completion, path length, overshoot, and root mean square error were analyzed. Overall, performance in the V and HV conditions was significantly better than in the H condition. H was the least efficient communication channel but elicited response with the shortest reaction time. When verbalization was not available, the use of the haptic device was more likely to be exaggerated to ensure information transmission. When verbalization was used, participants converged on the use of a Cartesian coordinate system for communicating spatial information. Conclusion: Haptic communication can be used to complete a collaborative virtual task but is less efficient than verbal communication. A training period may help to improve the efficiency of haptic communication. Application: These results can be used to design remote collaboration tasks incorporating haptic components and for improving the design of CVEs that support haptic communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-508
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • computer-supported collaborations
  • multimodality
  • team collaboration
  • team communication
  • virtual environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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