communication mediumACM Trans. Access. Comput.
Tactile reliefs offer many benefits over the more classic raised line drawings or tactile diagrams, as depth, 3D shape, and surface textures are directly perceivable. Although often created for blind and visually impaired (BVI) people, a wider range of people may benefit from such multimodal material. However, some reliefs are still difficult to understand without proper guidance or accompanying verbal descriptions, hindering autonomous exploration. In this work, we present a gesture-controlled interactive audio guide (IAG) based on recent low-cost depth cameras that can be operated directly with the hands on relief surfaces during tactile exploration. The interactively explorable, location-dependent verbal and captioned descriptions promise rapid tactile accessibility to 2.5D spatial information in a home or education setting, to online resources, or as a kiosk installation at public places. We present a working prototype, discuss design decisions, and present the results of two evaluation studies: the first with 13 BVI test users and the second follow-up study with 14 test users across a wide range of people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition, and communication. The participant-led research method of this latter study prompted new, significant and innovative developments.