Specialists of the Redmond IT giant were able to adapt the virtual reality for the blind and visually impaired. Now people with serious visual impairments will be able to use a special VR-cane to recreate an unfamiliar path in virtual reality and train in its passage without risk to health and psyche.
The system consists of a belt on which is fastened a long metal rod holding the walking stick, tracker and VR-helmet HTC Vive. The user acts as usual, when driving, feeling the room with a VR-stick. At the moment when it encounters a virtual object, the vibrators built into the cane begin to vibrate, simulating a collision with the object, signaling the user that they need to stop. In this case, headset headphones reproduce the sound corresponding to the characteristics of the object, for example, a dull blow against a metal tank or knock, characteristic of a collision with wooden furniture. In addition, the system simulates other sensations. The user feels that he is walking on a carpet or tile, he can feel that there is a small obstacle in front, for example a curb.
Now the system has difficulties with simulating walls. Similar obstacles can be felt with the help of a VR-cane, but the headset does not transmit the necessary sounds, causing certain difficulties. Nevertheless, even now the system can help visually impaired and blind people to learn a new route without being exposed to danger and stress. Developers have already tested the VR-stick in humans. Eight out of ten participants could navigate without any problems in virtual reality after ten minutes of using the gadget.