Sensory substitution techniques are perceptual and cognitive phenomena used to represent one sensory form with an alternative. Current applications of sensory substitution techniques are typically focused on the development of assistive technologies whereby visually impaired users can acquire visual information via auditory and tactile cross-modal feedback. But despite their evident success in scientific research and furthering theory development in cognition, sensory substitution techniques have not yet gained widespread adoption within sensory-impaired populations. Here we argue that shifting the focus from assistive to mainstream applications may resolve some of the current issues regarding the use of sensory substitution devices to improve outcomes for those with disabilities. This article provides a tutorial guide on how to use research into multisensory processing and sensory substitution techniques from the cognitive sciences to design new inclusive cross-modal displays. A greater focus on developing inclusive mainstream applications could lead to innovative technologies that could be enjoyed by every person.

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 665992, and the UK’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Entertainment (CDE), EP/L016540/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Cross-modal cognition
  • Cross-modal displays
  • Design for all
  • Human-computer interactions
  • Inclusion
  • Inclusive design
  • Multisensory perception
  • Sensory substitution
  • Universal design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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