[nfb-talk] Article: Audio-based virtual gaming aims to help the blind navigate, CNet News, April 1, 2013

Humberto Avila avila.bert.humberto2 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 2 04:21:43 UTC 2013


Text: Audio-based virtual gaming aims to help the blind navigate
Using only audio-based cues within the context of a video game metaphor,
blind users in a study out of Harvard are able to explore a building's
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore

Blind players were better able to navigate the building in real life than
their counterparts who'd been introduced to it by walking through it.
(Credit: Journal of Visualized Experiments) 
A video game that uses audio cues and computer-generated building layouts
has proven to be better at improving a blind person's spatial awareness of
that place than does actually walking them through it, according to new
research out of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear
The findings could have implications for how visually impaired people -- and
possibly those without impairments -- best learn to navigate unknown
"It is a tool to build a map of a place you have never been to before,"
Lotfi Merabet, the neuroscientist whose team developed the software used in
the study (which appears in the Journal of Visualized Experiments), told
Reuters. "The video game not only allows you to build a map in your mind, it
allows you to interact with it mentally in a way that you wouldn't be able
to if you were taught explicitly by walking through it."
Merabet sees the video game as an important step toward revolutionizing
assisted tech for the visually impaired, of which there are some 285 million
His team tested the game on teens to 45-year-olds who were either
congenitally blind or had lost their sight. Some participants played the
game, using audio cues to find hidden jewels in a building that in real life
is a center for the blind in Newton, Mass. There was an added incentive:
They had to remove those jewels from the building without being caught by,
you guessed it, monsters lurking in dark corners. Other participants got to
actually walk the building itself to learn the lay of the land.

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