It is time to consider the sense of touch.
“A real pilot knows how to fly by the seat of his pants.”
Scientific Studies demonstrate the efficacy of tactile feedback.
Touch is considered the most acute of the senses. Your entire body incorporates this sense. While the seat of your pants is not considered to be the most sensitive part of your body, your fingertips are. Fingers contain among the highest concentration of nerve endings over most other parts of the body. Consider the sensitivity required to read Braille.
In 2007, the US Army Research Laboratory conducted a remarkable study in which they reported that a system that uses only one sense to gather information about the environment will likely disturb our ability to operate “naturally” within the environment. That is to say that if a pilot is only relying on his visual interpretation of his instruments, he is less able to make use of his other faculties to interpret and act in his airplane. If one were to add a heightened stress situation, such as an engine problem, imminent obstacle or other cockpit emergency, the pilot is likely to misinterpret his airplane’s attitude, leading to disastrous results. More studies reported that the use of the skin as an information channel can be beneficial within a system, especially when the visual and/or auditory channels are overloaded or weakened. When a sensory modality is overloaded with information and it is the sole input for information transfer, the user becomes incapable of processing future incoming information via that same mode, the incidence of errors will increase and situational awareness and overall user performance will decrease. The scientific evidence supports a “redundant modality” for assuring a pilot receive the information required to operate the aircraft safely. The redundant modality has been shown to decrease the incidence of spatial disorientation for divers and astronauts. This means that receiving the same information to more than one sense at once enables our ability to remain oriented!
• Tactile systems have been found to be most efficient for the orientation, navigation and communication domains.
• Accuracy on testing using tactile modalities found them to be more accurate than with visual display only.
• Tactile and visual information, as opposed to visual information alone, improves performance.
The Army Research Laboratory study concluded that, “because humans have a limited capacity to receive, hold in working memory, and cognitively process information taken from the environment, the use of one sensory modality to convey information within a system can overload that modality.