The suggestion that the body surface might be used as an additional means of presenting information to human-machine operators has been around in the literature for nearly 50 years. Although recent technological advances have made the possibility of using the body as a receptive surface much more realistic, the fundamental limitations on the human information processing of tactile stimuli presented across the body surface are, however, still largely unknown. This literature review provides an overview of studies that have attempted to use vibrotactile interfaces to convey information to human operators. The importance of investigating any possible central cognitive limitations (i.e., rather than the peripheral limitations, such as related to sensory masking, that were typically addressed in earlier research) on tactile processing for the most effective design of body interfaces is highlighted. The applicability of the constraints emerging from studies of tactile processing under conditions of unisensory (i.e., purely tactile) stimulus presentation, to more ecologically valid conditions of multisensory stimulation, is also discussed. Finally, the results obtained from recent studies of tactile information processing under conditions of multisensory stimulation are described, and their implications for haptic/tactile interface design elucidated.

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