An initial field trial of a haptic navigation system for persons with a visual impairment

Daniel Innala Ahlmark (Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Maria Prellwitz (Department of Health Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Jenny Röding (Department of Health Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Lars Nyberg (Department of Health Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Kalevi Hyyppä (Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Publication date: 21 December 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe conceptions of feasibility of a haptic navigation system for persons with a visual impairment (VI).

Design/methodology/approach

Six persons with a VI who were white cane users were tasked with traversing a predetermined route in a corridor environment using the haptic navigation system. To see whether white cane experience translated to using the system, the participants received no prior training. The procedures were video-recorded, and the participants were interviewed about their conceptions of using the system. The interviews were analyzed using content analysis, where inductively generated codes that emerged from the data were clustered together and formulated into categories.

Findings

The participants quickly figured out how to use the system, and soon adopted their own usage technique. Despite this, locating objects was difficult. The interviews highlighted the desire to be able to feel at a distance, with several scenarios presented to illustrate current problems. The participants noted that their previous white cane experience helped, but that it nevertheless would take a lot of practice to master using this system. The potential for the device to increase security in unfamiliar environments was mentioned. Practical problems with the prototype were also discussed, notably the lack of auditory feedback.

Originality/value

One novel aspect of this field trial is the way it was carried out. Prior training was intentionally not provided, which means that the findings reflect immediate user experiences. The findings confirm the value of being able to perceive things beyond the range of the white cane; at the same time, the participants expressed concerns about that ability. Another key feature is that the prototype should be seen as a navigation aid rather than an obstacle avoidance device, despite the interaction similarities with the white cane. As such, the intent is not to replace the white cane as a primary means of detecting obstacles.

Keywords

Citation

Innala Ahlmark, D., Prellwitz, M., Röding, J., Nyberg, L. and Hyyppä, K. (2015), "An initial field trial of a haptic navigation system for persons with a visual impairment", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 199-206. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAT-01-2015-0002

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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