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Low-cost haptic-aural virtual environments for way-finding by children with congenital blindness: feasibility study

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3 Author(s)
Feintuch, U. ; Sch. of Occupational Therapy, Hadassah-Hebrew Univ. Med. Center, Jerusalem ; Haj, J. ; Weiss, P.L.

People who are blind find that navigating in new environments constitutes a major hurdle in their road to independence. This study proposes a system which may aid them in overcoming this obstacle. The HaptiGuide is an affordable system which employs a standard desktop computer and a commercially available off-the-shelf haptic joystick. The HaptiGuide enables the construction of simple two dimensional haptic-aural virtual environments. Navigating by the haptic joystick, the user may virtually explore a new environment prior to encountering it in the physical world. This study describes a feasibility study, where nine children who are congenitally blind, were introduced to a novel environment via the HaptiGuide. After traversing the virtual environment, the participants were asked to perform various wayfinding tasks in the equivalent physical environment. In addition, there was a control condition where the participants were introduced to a similar but different novel environment via a direct experience approach. In this condition the participants were personally guided in the physical environment, and then asked to perform wayfinding tasks within the environment. The results indicate that the participants indeed generalized the knowledge acquired during the virtual exploration, and successfully applied it to the physical environment. Preliminary data analysis suggests that performance speed was not diminished compared to that of the control condition. We conclude that the HaptiGuide appears to be feasible and merits further research and development

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Virtual Rehabilitation, 2006 International Workshop on

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