A virtual reality platform to simulate orientation and mobility training for the visually impaired

Fabiana Sofia Ricci, Alain Boldini, Mahya Beheshti, John-Ross Rizzo, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Blindness and low vision are an urgent, steadily increasing public health concern. One of the most dramatic consequences of the debilitating conditions that cause visual impairment (VI) is the loss of mobility. Immobility is a grave impediment to quality of life. Orientation and mobility (O&M) training is a profession specific to VI that teaches safe, efficient, and effective travel skills to persons of all ages and in all types of environments. However, the lack of standardized best practices for objective assessment of performance and the exposure of trainees to harm during training are key hurdles for O&M education success. To partially mitigate these drawbacks, we propose a virtual reality platform that can support O&M trainers in the evaluation and refinement of O&M practice, help O&M trainees learn new O&M techniques in a completely safe, yet realistic, environment, and raise awareness for VI in the general public. The proposed platform is tested with a proof-of-concept experiment that evaluates the clinical utility of a custom VI simulation, the immersivity of the virtual reality experience—a crucial attribute for training and educational purposes—and participants’ disability awareness and gained knowledge about the challenges faced by persons with VI in their daily life. The first concept is tested by assessing participants’ performance in virtual reality-based wayfinding tasks while the second and third are tested through a series of dedicated questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVirtual Reality
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Assistive technology
  • Disability
  • Human–computer interaction
  • Travel aid
  • Urban accessibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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