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"Learning and rehabilitation using haptic, audio and visual feedback in virtual reality environments" (LR HAV VRE)
Start date: Oct 1, 2008, End date: Sep 30, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The ability to navigate spaces independently, safely and efficiently is a combined product of motor, sensory, and cognitive skills.Sighted people use the visual channel to gather information required for this mental mapping.Lacking this information, people who are blind or visually impaired face great difficulties in exploring new spaces. Research on orientation and mobility skills of people who are blind indicates that support for the acquisition of efficient spatial mapping should be supplied at two main levels: At the perceptual level the haptic, auditory, and olfactory channels become powerful information suppliers about unknown spaces; at the conceptual level, the focus is on supporting the development of strategies for efficient mapping and generation of navigation paths. The main goal of this research is to attain a thorough understanding of cognitive mapping process of complex unknown spaces by people who are visually challenged, when the exploration of the spaces is based on haptic, auditory, visually, and conceptual feedback supplied by a virtual learning environment (VLE). The research questions are: What are the VLE components that appear to have significant value?Does simulated walking in the VLE contribute to the construction of an efficient cognitive map?How does this cognitive map contribute to the person’s performance in the real space under short-term and long-term retrieval conditions? Four independent variables will be considered: type of disability; age of vision loss; type of environment – VLE with haptic and auditory feedback, VLE with haptic feedback, VLE with haptic, auditory and visual feedback, VLE with haptic and visual feedback, and real space; and time– performance in the real space immediately after the exploration and about a year later. Three sets of dependent variables were defined: the exploration process of unknown space; the cognitive mapping process and outcomes; and the implementation of the constructed map in the real space."
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