Category: Orientation and Mobility

Audio-Based Environment Simulator (Abes)

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---- PROTOTYPE --------- PURPOSE: To create a prototype of an audio map for individuals who are blind or have low vision to enable them to navigate in unknown places. Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School have developed software that uses audio signals to convey a map of an area that a blind person will then walk through. The Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audible cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, the user gathers relevant spatial information regarding a building's layout from the software, allowing the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of indoor navigation. After playing the game,the user is assessed on his or her ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggested that blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path-finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop-off tasks. Researchers found that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to engage users who are blind to actively explore the virtual environment. AUTHOR: Gene Ostrovsky. TITLE: Audio Maps for Blind Help Traverse Unknown Places. WEBSITE: medGadget. REF:


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Audio-Based Environment Simulator (Abes)