Microsoft Research Developed VR For Visually Impaired People
Researchers have developed a device that makes virtual spaces accessible to the visually impaired
The VR technology has made huge strides to become more immersive than ever. With consumer products like Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive or the Samsung Gear relying heavily on vision, developments in VR have been inaccessible to the visually impaired. The CaneTroller, a project by the Microsoft Research, is a hardware kit that can help the blind and visually impaired navigate virtual spaces.
The CaneTroller is a modified HTC Vive controller tethered to a brake mechanism. The brake mechanism allows the cane to simulate hitting objects. There is also a vibrating device on the cane, allowing for more refined haptic feedback like when rubbing the cane on a virtual carpet.
An HTC Vive headset is still used but the screens are kept off. The headset allows the system to track the user’s head position and provide three-dimensional audio feedback. When the cane hits a trash bin, sound feedback will also be in 3D.
Participants in the study were able to understand the virtual spaces there were put in and locate virtual items such as trash bins and chairs using a combination of tactile and auditory feedback.
The full research paper can be accessed here.
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Halle Tecco is a founder and managing director of Rock Health, the first seed fund devoted exclusively to digital health companies. Prior to Rock Health, Halle worked as a business analyst at Intel before moving on to Apple where she worked in the health and medical vertical. Halle is also an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School.
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