The importance of Human-Centered Design (HCD) drives research toward the development of new UIs (User Interfaces) in order to predict human interaction with products at the early design stages. Virtual Reality (VR) allows carrying out usability tests on virtual prototypes to investigate users’ cognitive and affective response. Application problems regard with the reproduction of synaesthesia qualities in order to make the information processing similar to the one obtained by real sensory stimulation. While visualization technologies seem to be mature enough to overcome the above mentioned limitation, tactile devices are still far from properly simulating materials properties. In this context, the present work aims at structuring and applying a systematic approach to conceive, define and develop a novel VR-based technology, called I-perTouch. The goal is to stimulate the skin mechanoreceptors to generate a meaningful tactile sensation about materials softness, friction and roughness. The system can be also integrated with imaging and sound technologies to create a multi-sensorial product experience. The preliminary architecture results from the analysis of human tactile perception and the benchmark of available simulation devices and techniques. This paper contributes to discuss current issues of existing VR-based technologies in supporting HCD applications and to address technical developments toward the creation of a reliable system for texture perception.

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