Gibson’s Feelies

Shapes for haptic experiments

Note June 2017 – I’ve put these up on our lab’s Github page at so you can fork, modify, etc.


In the 1960s, Gibson (1962, 1963, 1966) informally described several intriguing experiments that compared visual and haptic shape perception; these experiments used a set of ten solid sculptures that he collectively referred to as ‘‘feelies’’ (Gibson 1962, p. 489). Unfortunately, the quantitative results of these ‘‘feelie’’ experiments from Gibson’s laboratory were never published (see Norman et al. 2004). About a decade later, however, Gibson’s feelies were used in investigations by Jacqueline Goodnow and Philip Davidson, and these experimental results were published (see Davidson et al. 1974; Goodnow 1971).

We borrowed the only known remaining set of Gibson’s 10 feelies from the Archives of the History of American Psychology (located at the University of Akron, Ohio, USA). Using a NextEngine laser scanner, Dr. Phillips and his student (and now professor) Eric Egan made high resolution scans of the objects. The resulting objects were cleaned and optimized using software written using Wolfram Mathematica and prepared for 3D printing with Autodesk Meshmixer.

We are making the scan data available here, for use by the research community. Please cite our dataset —

  • Phillips F and Egan E. (2016). Gibson Feelies (v1.1) [3D Object Files]. Retrieved from
  • Norman, J. F. et al. Solid shape discrimination from vision and haptics: natural objects (Capsicum annuum) and Gibson’s ‘feelies’. Exp Brain Res 222, 321–332 (2012).

All commercial uses, other than those granted by the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license, are explicitly reserved by the authors. For permission, please contact


The current version includes Wavefront OBJ format and STL files. The OBJs include texture maps from the original objects. The STLs are manifold and 3D printing ready.





We are experimenting with providing a Shapeways store where you can purchase the objects built for you. You can have a look at our Shapeways Store here.

  • Davidson PW, Abbott S, Gershenfeld J (1974) Influence of exploration time on haptic and visual matching of complex shape. Percept Psychophys 15(3):539–543
  • Gibson JJ (1962) Observations on active touch. Psychol Rev 69(6):477–491
  • Gibson JJ (1963) The useful dimensions of sensitivity. Am Psychol 18(1):1–15
  • Gibson JJ (1966) The senses considered as perceptual systems. Houghton Mifflin, Boston
  • Goodnow JJ (1971) Eye and hand: differential memory and its effect on matching. Neuropsychologia 9(1):89–95

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Gibson Feelies by Flip Phillips & Eric Egan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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