Development of an Audio-Haptic Virtual Interface for Navigation of Large-Scale Environments for People Who Are Blind
We are investigating cognitive spatial mapping skills in people who are blind through the use of virtual navigation and assessing the transference of acquired spatial knowledge in large-scale, real-world navigation tasks. Training is carried out with a user-centered, computer-based, navigation software platform called Haptic Audio Game Application (HAGA). This software was developed to assist in orientation and mobility (O&M) training by introducing blind users to a spatial layout of a large-scale environment through immersive and simulation-based virtual navigation. As part of a self-directed, free exploration strategy, users interact with HAGA in order to navigate through a simulated indoor and outdoor virtual environment that represents an actual physical space. Navigation is based on the use of iconic and spatialized auditory cues and vibro-tactile feedback so as to build a cognitive spatial map of the surrounding environment. The ability to transfer acquired spatial information is then assessed in a series of physical navigation tasks carried out in the actual target environment explored virtually.
KeywordsMultimodal interfaces Blind Spatial cognition Navigation
This work was supported by an NIH/NEI RO1 GRANT EY019924 (Lotfi B. Merabet) and also funded by the Chilean National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development, Fondecyt HYPERLINK “tel:1150898” 1150898; and the Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence, FB0003 project, from the Associative Research Program of CONICYT, Chile. (Jaime Sánchez). The authors would like to thank the research participants, as well as Rabih Dow, Padma Rajagopal and the staff of the Carroll Center for the Blind (Newton MA, USA) for their support in carrying out this research.
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