UNCONSTRAINED WALKING PLANE TO VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTFOR SPATIAL LEARNING BY VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Kanubhai K. Patel
, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Vij
School of ICT, Ahmedabad University, Ahmedabad, India, email@example.com
Dept. of CE-IT-MCA, SVIT, Vasad, India, firstname.lastname@example.org
Treadmill-style locomotion interfaces for locomotion in virtual environmenttypically have two problems that impact their usability: bulky or complex drivemechanism and stability problem. The bulky or complex drive mechanismrequirement restricts the practical use of this locomotion interface and stabilityproblem results in the induction of fear psychosis to the user. This paper describesa novel simple treadmill-style locomotion interface that uses manual treadmill withhandles to provide needbased support, thus allowing walking with assured stability.Its simplicity of design coupled with supervised multi-modal training facilitymakes it an effective device for spatial learning and thereby enhancing the mobilityskills of visually impaired people. It facilitates visually impaired person indeveloping cognitive maps of new and unfamiliar places through virtualenvironment exploration, so that they can navigate through such places with easeand confidence in real. In this paper, we describe the structure and controlmechanism of the device along with system architecture and experimental resultson general usability of the system.
assistive technology, blindness, cognitive maps, locomotion interface,Virtual learning environment.
Unlike in case of sighted people, spatialinformation is not fully available to visuallyimpaired and blind people causing difficulties intheir mobility in new or unfamiliar locations. Thisconstraint can be overcome by providing mentalmapping of spaces, and of the possible paths fornavigating through these spaces which are essentialfor the development of efficient orientation andmobility skills. Orientation refers to the ability tosituate oneself relative to a frame of reference, andmobility is defined as “the ability to travel safely,comfortably, gracefully, and independently” [7, 18].Most of the information required for mental mappingis gathered through the visual channel . Asvisually impaired people are handicapped to gatherthis crucial information, they face great difficultiesin generating efficient mental maps of spaces and,therefore, in navigating efficiently within new orunfamiliar spaces. Consequently, many visuallyimpaired people become passive, depending onothers for assistance. More than 30% of the blind donot ambulate independently outdoors [2, 16]. Suchassistance might not be required after a reasonablenumber of repeated visits to the new space as thesevisits enable formation of mental map of the newspace subconsciously. Thus, a good number of researchers focused on using technology to simulatevisits to a new space for building cognitive maps.Although isolated solutions have been attempted, nointegrated solution of spatial learning to visuallyimpaired people is available to the best of ourknowledge. Also most of the simulatedenvironments are far away from reality and thechallenge in this approach is to create a near real-lifeexperience.Use of advanced computer technology offersnew possibilities for supporting visually impairedpeople's acquisition of orientation and mobility skills,by compensating the deficiencies of the impairedchannel. The newer technologies including speechprocessing, computer haptics and virtual reality (VR)provide us various options in design andimplementation of a wide variety of multimodalapplications. Even for sighted people, suchtechnologies can be used (a) to enhance the visualinformation available to a person in such a way thatimportant features of a scene are presented visibly,or (b) to train them through virtual environmentleading to create cognitive maps of unfamiliar areasor (c) to get a feel of an object (using haptics) .Virtual Reality provides for creation of simulated objects and events with which people caninteract. The definitions of Virtual Reality (VR),although wide and varied, include a commonstatement that VR creates the illusion of participation in a synthetic environment rather than
UbiCC Journal, Volume 5, March 2010