—VirtuNav is a haptic-, audio- enabled Virtual Reality (VR) simulator that facilitates persons with visual impairment to explore a 3D computerized model of a real-life indoor location, such as a classroom or hospital. For administrative purposes, the screen displays a 2D overhead view of the map to monitor user progress and location relative to the reconstructed 3D environment. The system offers two unique interfaces: a free-roam interface where a user can freely navigate and interact with the model, and an edit mode where an administrator can manage test users, manage maps and retrieve test data. VirtuNav is developed as a practical application offering several unique features including map design, semi-automatic 3D map reconstruction and object classification from 2D map data. Visual and haptic rendering of real-time 3D map navigation are provided, and automated administrative functions including determination of shortest path taken, comparison with the actual path taken, and assessment of performance indicators relating to time taken for exploration and collision data. VirtuNav is a research tool for investigation of user familiarity developed after repeated exposure to the indoor location, to determine the extent to which haptic and/or sound cues improve a visually impaired user’s ability to navigate a room or building with or without occlusion. System testing reveals that spatial awareness and memory mapping improve with user iterations within VirtuNav. The application is for greater real world engagement: to build confidence in real world experiences, enabling persons with sight impairment to more comfortably and readily explore and interact with environments formerly unfamiliar or unattainable to them.
—Virtual environment, indoor navigation, haptics, 3D reconstruction, visually impaired.
C. A. Todd is with the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong in Dubai, Dubai 20183, UAE (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
K. Naylor is with Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, Dubai 20183, UAE (e-mail: email@example.com).
Cite: Catherine A. Todd and Katy Naylo, "A Haptic-Audio Simulator Indoor Navigation: To Assist Visually Impaired Environment Exploration," International Journal of Information and Education Technology vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 178-186, 2016.