Haptic Rendering of HTML Components and 2D Maps Included in Web Pages

Haptic Rendering of HTML Components and 2D Maps Included in Web Pages

Nikolaos Kaklanis (University of Surrey, UK & Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece), Konstantinos Moustakas (Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece) and Dimitrios Tsovaras (Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-821-7.ch006
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This chapter describes an interaction technique wherein web pages are parsed so as to automatically generate a corresponding 3D virtual environment with haptic feedback. The automatically created 3D scene is composed of “hapgets” (haptically-enhanced widgets), which are three dimensional widgets providing a behavior that is analogous to the behavior of the original HTML components but are also enhanced with haptic feedback. Moreover, for each 2D map included in a web page a corresponding multimodal (haptic-aural) map is automatically generated. The proposed interaction technique enables the haptic navigation through the internet as well as the haptic exploration of conventional 2D maps for the visually impaired users. A rendering engine of web pages that was developed according to the proposed interaction technique is also presented.
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The Internet is without question the greatest existing collection of resources. The use of the Web is spreading rapidly in most areas of society and daily life. In many countries, the Web is increasingly used for government information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, health care, recreation, entertainment, and more. In some cases, the Web is also replacing traditional resources, like books, newspapers, etc.

The Internet provides an opportunity for unprecedented access to information for people with disabilities. Many accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through web technologies. For example, when the primary way to get certain bibliographic information was to go to a library and read it on paper, there were significant barriers for many people with disabilities, such as getting to the library, physically getting the resource, and reading the resource. When that same information is also available on the Web in an accessible format, it is significantly easier for many people to access the information. In some cases, the Web allows people with disabilities to do things that were nearly impossible without it. The Web is also an opportunity for unprecedented interaction, enabling people with disabilities to more actively participate in society. Therefore, it must be fully accessible, in order to provide equal access and equal opportunities to people with disabilities.

Despite technological advances aimed at making the Internet accessible and easy to use, the World Wide Web is not wide open for many people. People with disabilities and especially visually impaired users often meet huge obstacles in accessing the internet as the visual is the predominant channel in web navigation. While the most formidable task today may be presenting information in a manner that meets the accessibility needs of people using screen readers, the overarching issue is making everything on the Internet usable by the widest audience possible.

Numerous studies have shown current web accessibility to be less than optimal (Gerber & Kirchner, 2001; Lazar et al., 2007; Mcmullin, 2002). Despite significant advances in assistive technologies, blind and visually impaired Internet users continue to encounter barriers when accessing web content (Gerber & Kirchner, 2001; Sinks & King, 1998; Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0). Navigation through a web page or through a series of web pages can be a difficult process due to the lack of feedback received (Murphy et al., 2008). Screen reading technologies synthesise the main body of text available on each page, outputting a linear rather than spatial representation of information on a page. On web pages containing a large amount of information, task completion time can increase due to additional complexity. This can lead to a greater chance of mistakes and slips (Brajnik, 2004). Petrie et al. (1997) found that moving backwards and forwards through pages, reaching the top of the current node, and looking for a quick method of moving to the home node present significant challenges to users. In the MultiReader report (2001), some visually impaired Internet users were found to close the browser and then re-launch, rather than using the navigation buttons provided. Moving through a sequence of pages such as a flight booking process, can also prove to be complex for users. Problems can be attributed to the visually oriented presentation of information via the computer interface, and restrictions imposed by assistive devices. The text contained in Web pages can be presented via a screen reader, but without the meta-information provided by the layout, pages can be hard to navigate, and the required information can be difficult to find. The values contained in the cells of a table can be read by a screen reader, but the lack of spatial layout means that the relationships between them can quickly become unintelligible. Information contained in graphs, images or models is almost impossible to convey via speech alone. Even when a verbal description of the data can be generated, it is unlikely to capture the rich information contained in the visual presentation.

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