2006 Conference General Sessions

WHAT POTENTIAL DOES VIRTUAL REALITY HAVE FOR PERSONS WITH DUAL SENSORY IMPAIRMENT

Presenter #1
Oystein Dale
Centre for Assistive Technology, National Insurance Administration Street
Pb. 5200 Nydalen
Oslo
0426
Norway
Day Phone: +4795251285
Fax: +4722927070
Email: oystein.dale@trygdeetaten.no

The potential that virtual realty and related technologies hold for the rehabilitation of persons with dual sensory impairment will be presented and discussed.

The term virtual reality (VR) encompasses a number of loosely related technologies. Terms such as virtual reality, virtual environments, augmented reality, enhanced reality and mixed reality are often used interchangeably. The common denominator for all is that they represent attempts to convey realistic and life like machine generated realities and environments through a suitable interface which humans can interact with. The greater immersion and presence one feels in these artificial environments, the more realistic the experience becomes.

The demands of the physical and social environment often restrict the activities of persons with reduced functional ability. In a virtual world it is possible to reduce this mismatch by manipulating the virtual world to suit the special needs of the person. VR and related technologies may thus contribute to assist persons with reduced function to engage in a number of activities which they previously were unable to pursue.

VR and associated technologies has been utilized in health care for more than two decades. A comprehensive search in peer reviewed literature revealed a host of research on the
topic. VR environments have advantageously been applied in the fields of medical treatment, somatic and psychological rehabilitation, medical and allied health personnel training, substance abuse treatment and pain reduction as well as across a broad range of other health areas. It is especially in the field of psychology, and particularly in the area of treatment of phobias and that virtual reality type technologies have been utilized a great deal.

VR has also been introduced in the rehabilitation of person with vision loss, and we have located a number of research papers on this topic. The focus in these papers has been on spatial cognitive mapping, orientation and mobility skills. We failed to locate peer viewed literature describing the application of virtual reality type technology for persons with dual sensory impairment. A search on the Internet did reveal some information, but not an abundance.

In this presentation I will examine and discuss the potential use of VR and related technologies for people with dual sensory impairment. A general introduction and overview of the available technology will be given, and the particular challenges one face when applying this type of technology to people with dual sensory impairment will be outlined. Possible practical solutions and set ups will be mentioned and discussed.

I will particularly examine the potential that augmented reality in combination with different types of hardware and network solutions hold. Concrete examples include augmented orientation and mobility assistance, remote artificial personal support systems and flexible access to environmental information. My aim is to illustrate practical applications of VR technologies in everyday situations and contexts, -which may assist the user.

The emphasis in the presentation will be on the type of interface utilized to convey the VR experience. Given the restricted auditory and visual input people with dual sensory impairment receive, development of a suitable interface is paramount for a realistic VR experience. Besides auditory and visual inputs, one may look to haptic, tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive and olfactory channels for realistic virtual representations.

The development and implementation of VR and related technologies may increase the vocational, social and societal participation of persons with dual sensory impairment, and ultimately lead to increased quality of life.


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