Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Using a Video Game to Familiarize Yourself with a Building Before You Go there

One of the fundamental challenges that the blind face on a regular basis is how to navigate in new places. Oftentimes we learn how to get where we need to go, but we don’t necessarily get a feel for an entire building and its layout. A new project is aiming to solve this problem by introducing people to a new environment using a video game.

The software that is being developed is called Audio Based Environment Simulator or ABES. The research is being done using the layout of the Carol Center for the Blind. Participants learn the layout of the building by being given the challenges of getting jewels out of the building before monsters find them and moving the jewels to a different location. Game play involves a keyboard and a set of head phones. Since the game play is fun and challenging, participants have found the game to be engaging and useful.

Once the players have finished the game, the researchers test whether the game gives the participant the spatial awareness they need to navigate the building. To test this, the participants are taken to the actual Carol Center for the Blind where they are asked to navigate to different parts of the building. The researchers, who did not inform the participants of the purpose of the study until after they had finished playing the game found that participants were retaining the information about the building without knowing that they would need to. These findings make the researchers excited to start applying this technology to other buildings.

Imagine being able to virtually explore a building like an airport or a college campus before ever going there. I can see this being a benefit to a wide range of people especially children who are learning mobility skills.

To read more about this exciting new technology visit this page: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-03-virtual-games-unknown-territory.html

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