Saturday, March 30, 2013

Serious Games Improve Navigation Skills For People With Vision Disabilities

Serious Games helping blind people conceptualize space around them



Via: Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)Development of an Audio-based Virtual Gaming Environment to Assist with Navigation Skills in the Blind 
Connors, E. C., Yazzolino, L. A., Sánchez, J., Merabet, L. B. Development of an Audio-based Virtual Gaming Environment to Assist with Navigation Skills in the Blind. J. Vis. Exp. (73), e50272, doi:10.3791/50272 (2013)

On March 27th, JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) published a new video article by Dr. Lotfi Merabet showing how researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School have developed a Serious Game to help blind individuals improve navigation skills and develop a cognitive spatial map of unfamiliar buildings and public locations (please find also Serious Gaming Your Way To Better Vision)



The technique utilizes computer generated layouts of public buildings and spatial sensory feedback to synthesize a virtual world that mimics a real world navigation task. In the game, participants must find jewels and carry them out of the building, without being intercepted by roaming monsters that steal the jewels and hide them elsewhere.

Participants interface with the virtual building by using a keyboard and wearing headphones that play auditory cues that help spatially orient them to the world around them. This interaction helps users generate an accurate mental layout of the mimicked building.  Dr. Merabet and his colleagues are also exploring applications of this technology with other user interfaces, like a Wii Remote or joystick.

"It could be a whole new way to help blind people interact with this information and conceptualize space around them," Merabet added in an interview.

"We have developed the software called AbES, the Audio-based Environment Simulator that represents the actual physical environment of the Caroll Center for the Blind in Newton Massachusetts. The participants will use the game metaphor to get a sense of the whole building through open discovery, allowing people to learn room layouts more naturally than if they were just following directions."

After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early 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. 




Neuroscientist Lotfi Merabet has developed a video game designed to help the blind find their way through a building (Courtesy)

"It could be a whole new way to help blind people interact with this information and conceptualize space around them," Merabet added in an interview.

The technology will invariably be useful for the 285 million blind people world-wide, 6 million of which live in the United States. It will also have applications beyond the blind community for individuals with other visual impairments, cognitive deficits, or those recovering from brain injuries.

About JoVE

JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format.

Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly.

As of March 2013, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of nearly 6,000 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.