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Hum Factors. 2001 Summer;43(2):278-86.

Haptic force-feedback devices for the office computer: performance and musculoskeletal loading issues.

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Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Pointing devices, essential input tools for the graphical user interface (GUI) of desktop computers, require precise motor control and dexterity to use. Haptic force-feedback devices provide the human operator with tactile cues, adding the sense of touch to existing visual and auditory interfaces. However, the performance enhancements, comfort, and possible musculoskeletal loading of using a force-feedback device in an office environment are unknown. Hypothesizing that the time to perform a task and the self-reported pain and discomfort of the task improve with the addition of force feedback, 26 people ranging in age from 22 to 44 years performed a point-and-click task 540 times with and without an attractive force field surrounding the desired target. The point-and-click movements were approximately 25% faster with the addition of force feedback (paired t-tests, p < 0.001). Perceived user discomfort and pain, as measured through a questionnaire, were also smaller with the addition of force feedback (p < 0.001). However, this difference decreased as additional distracting force fields were added to the task environment, simulating a more realistic work situation. These results suggest that for a given task, use of a force-feedback device improves performance, and potentially reduces musculoskeletal loading during mouse use. Actual or potential applications of this research include human-computer interface design, specifically that of the pointing device extensively used for the graphical user interface.

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