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5 Discussion

The visitors agreed unanimously that the combination of visual and haptic cues gave a much better sense of the object, and increased the sense of authenticity in comparison to just viewing it in its case. Because of the size of the chess piece, some visitors commented that a seated position would bring the piece on their eye height and reduce the fatigue from standing up and using the interface.

The comparison between the haptic device and the replica showed that the multifinger tactile interaction with the replica produced considerably richer information than the single-point contact of the haptic device. The surface texture and material of an artefact plays a significant role when exploring haptically an object and the Phantom haptic device cannot provide this level of haptic rendering at sufficient quality. The authors acknowledge that a single contact point is relatively little information compared to the amount of haptic sensations that a finger can give by touching a texture or a complex surface. The key issue is whether small additions to the museum experience are worthwhile.

The two different installations allow comparative assessments on such issues which add to the current literature on heritage applications of haptic and virtual experiences with objects. Our research juxtaposed two different experiences to the same object allowing for direct comparisons. The relative costs, maintenance issues, and ease of use, as well as the visitor feedback and comments all pointed in favour of the computer mediated but physical replica compared to the active haptic device. Yet without the trial this was not a predictable outcome as the readiness of visitors to engage with the virtual reflection and the coalignment of visual hand image with touch experience was one of the key trial results. In contrast, the haptic pen could have been handled by visitors in much the same way as a simple wooden stick could be drawn across the face of a textured object to probe aspects of its morphology and textures.

The trial results certainly relate to cognitive perception but they also relate back to the clear directive of the end-users: to hide the technology and for it not to overwhelm the visitors. Visitors were clearly more comfortable aligning real touch of a hidden replica co-located with a virtual reflection than working an obvious computer-related largely unfamiliar device. Though the design of the pen was fairly robust and easy to use as a device once shown, not many visitors knew about haptic pens and the device by its nature could not be hidden. These are important aspects in the willingness of visitors to engage with unfamiliar technologies versus their desire to interact with objects within glass cases. Such results have been highlighted in other research [5] [11] reinforcing our conclusion that the familiarity of the touch experience at the level of embodied practice can affect visitor perceptions but that as haptic devices are developed and become more mainstream experiences they can more easily be applied. Still, these statements are based on observing the visitors' readiness to engage with the installations and from some visitor comments about preferences between the two. It is more difficult to attribute this to familiarity versus immediacy which the replica presents stronger than the haptic pen whether produced by 3D printing or other means.

Finally, the 3D print technologies are reducing in price and are now not so expensive. Compared to using a PHANToM, the 3D printed replica is a lower cost solution.

 
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