Virtual Environment to Evaluate Multimodal Feedback Strategies for Augmented Navigation of the Visually Impaired
Abstract— This paper proposes a novel experimental environ- ment to evaluate multimodal feedback strategies for augmented navigation of the visually impaired. The environment consists of virtual obstacles and walls, an optical tracking system and a simple device with audio and vibrotactile feedback that interacts with the virtual environment, and presents many advantages in terms of safety, ﬂexibility, control over exper- imental parameters and cost. The subject can freely move in an empty room, while the position of head and arm are tracked in real time. A virtual environment (walls, obstacles) is randomly generated, and audio and vibrotactile feedback are given according to the distance from the subjects arm to the virtual walls/objects. We investigate the applicability of our environment using a simple, commercially available feedback device. Experiments with unimpaired subjects show that it is possible to use the setup to ”blindly” navigate in an unpredictable virtual environment. This validates the environment as a test platform to investigate navigation and exploration strategies of the visually impaired, and to evaluate novel technologies for augmented navigation.