Microsoft Research has released another video of their previously demonstrated haptics-enabled cane which allows blind people to navigate VR.
The cane controller closely simulates a real cane as used by the blind therefore opens up the doors to a large number of visually impaired already trained in the technique to enter a virtual space and be immediately at home. It enables navigation without vision of large virtual environments with complex architecture, such as winding paths and occluding walls and doors.
The cane controller employs a lightweight three-axis brake mechanism to provide large-scale shape of virtual objects. The multiple degrees-of-freedom enables users to adapt the controller to their preferred techniques and grip. In addition, surface textures are rendered with a voice coil actuator based on contact vibrations; and spatialized audio is determined based on the progression of sound through the geometry around the user.
Microsoft Research tested the usability of the cane via a scavenger hunt game that demonstrates how the device enables blind users to navigate a complex virtual environment. Seven out of eight users were able to successfully navigate the virtual room (6x6m) to locate targets while avoiding collisions.
Microsoft notes that the tool can also be used to train visually impaired users in a safe virtual environment before transferring their new skills to the real world.
See the video below:
The full paper detailing the invention can be read here.