Learning to use electronic travel AIDS for visually impaired in virtual reality

Fabiana Sofia Ricci, Alain Boldini, John Ross Rizzo, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Vision loss ranks among the top causes of disability in the United States. Visual impairment (VI) remains an urgent public health priority, causing loss of independence in almost every aspect of daily life. Mobility of the visually impaired requires skill, effort and training. In this vein, orientation and mobility training (O&M) is currently offered to prepare the visually impaired for independent travel in any familiar or unfamiliar environment, as well as to use primary and secondary mobility aids, such as white canes and electronic travel aids (ETAs), respectively. Even though O&M training is an established practice, it is not free of risks, as trainees may be exposed to potential harm. To address this issue, we developed a virtual reality (VR) environment for training with an ETA previously developed by our team (on which we presented at this meeting last year). The ETA comprises a belt, serving as a haptic feedback wearable device that senses the surroundings through computer vision and sends vibro-tactile feedback to the user's abdomen about the position of nearby obstacles. The belt is interfaced with VR, enabling trainees to immerse in a computer-simulated, safe, three-dimensional environment. Our integrated system brings the visually impaired into virtual scenarios where they can perform specific tasks-either simply to measure their performance or to train certain skills for rehabilitation purposes. The ultimate goal of our effort is to establish a training and evaluation framework that could mitigate the immobility consequences of visual impairment, improve quality of life, enhance social participation, and reduce societal costs, while creating an engaging and appealing experience to the visually impaired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNano-, Bio-, Info-Tech Sensors, and Wearable Systems 2022
EditorsJaehwan Kim, Kyo D. Song, Ilkwon Oh, Maurizio Porfiri
ISBN (Electronic)9781510649651
StatePublished - 2022
EventNano-, Bio-, Info-Tech Sensors, and Wearable Systems 2022 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Apr 4 2022Apr 10 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceNano-, Bio-, Info-Tech Sensors, and Wearable Systems 2022
CityVirtual, Online


  • Assistive technology
  • electronic travel aid
  • mobility training
  • virtual reality
  • visual impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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