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Full Access Blind in a virtual world — using distance information to accomplish virtual tasks

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Blind in a virtual world — using distance information to accomplish virtual tasks

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image of Multisensory Research
For more content, see Seeing and Perceiving and Spatial Vision.

Distance information is critical to our understanding of our surrounding environment, especially in virtual reality settings. Unfortunately, as we gage distance mainly visually, the blind are prevented from properly utilizing this parameter to formulate 3D cognitive maps and cognitive imagery of their surroundings. Our purpose is to increase the accessibility of virtual environments to the blind using distance information which they will receive as auditory information. We aim to create a setup which will enable the blind and visually impaired to experience novel environments virtually before travelling to them in the real world, and additionally will enable the blind better accessibility to virtual environments for purposes such as entertainment and education. Here, blind and sighted-blindfolded subjects performed navigation and shape-discrimination tasks in virtual environments, using a simple transformation between virtual distance and sound, based on the concept of a virtual guide cane (paralleling in a virtual environment the ‘EyeCane’, developed in our lab). We show qualitatively that with minimal training it is possible for blind and blindfolded subjects to easily learn this transformation, enabling the discrimination of virtual 3D orientation and shapes and navigation in basic virtual environments using a standard mouse and audio-system.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Medical Neurobiology, The Institute for Medical Research Israel–Canada (IMRIC), Faculty of Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Distance information is critical to our understanding of our surrounding environment, especially in virtual reality settings. Unfortunately, as we gage distance mainly visually, the blind are prevented from properly utilizing this parameter to formulate 3D cognitive maps and cognitive imagery of their surroundings. Our purpose is to increase the accessibility of virtual environments to the blind using distance information which they will receive as auditory information. We aim to create a setup which will enable the blind and visually impaired to experience novel environments virtually before travelling to them in the real world, and additionally will enable the blind better accessibility to virtual environments for purposes such as entertainment and education. Here, blind and sighted-blindfolded subjects performed navigation and shape-discrimination tasks in virtual environments, using a simple transformation between virtual distance and sound, based on the concept of a virtual guide cane (paralleling in a virtual environment the ‘EyeCane’, developed in our lab). We show qualitatively that with minimal training it is possible for blind and blindfolded subjects to easily learn this transformation, enabling the discrimination of virtual 3D orientation and shapes and navigation in basic virtual environments using a standard mouse and audio-system.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134808-000s0128
2013-05-16
2017-12-17

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