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4th ICDVRAT

The Fourth International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies

18th to 20th September 2002 - Veszprém, Hungary


ICDVRAT Online Archive - Part IV


Session I - Virtual Environments for Assessment

Session Chair: Cecilia Sik Lanyi

Virtual environments for the assessment of attention and memory processes: the virtual classroom and office

A A Rizzo, T Bowerly, J G Buckwalter, M Schultheis, R Matheis, C Shahabi, U Neumann, L Kim and M Sharifzadeh, University of Southern California/Fuller Graduate School of Psychology/Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research & Education Corp./Southern California Permanente Medical Group, USA

Virtual Reality (VR) technology offers new options for neuropsychological assessment and cognitive rehabilitation. If empirical studies demonstrate effectiveness, virtual environments (VEs) could be of considerable benefit to persons with cognitive and functional impairments due to traumatic brain injury, neurological disorders, and learning disabilities. Testing and training scenarios that would be difficult, if not impossible, to deliver using conventional neuropsychological methods are now being developed that take advantage of the assets available with VR technology. These assets include the precise presentation and control of dynamic multi-sensory 3D stimulus environments, as well as advanced methods for recording behavioral responses. When combining these assets within the context of functionally relevant, ecologically valid VEs, a fundamental advancement emerges in how human cognition and functional behavior can be assessed and rehabilitated. This paper will focus on the progress of a collaborative VR research program at the University of Southern California and the Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Research and Education Corporation. These groups are developing and evaluating VR neuropsychological applications designed to target: 1. Attention processes in children with ADHD within a HMD virtual classroom and 2. Memory processes in persons with TBI within a HMD virtual office. Results from completed research, rationales and methodology of works in progress, and our plan for future work will be discussed. Our primary vision has been to develop VR systems that target cognitive processes and functional skills that are relevant to a wide range of patient populations with CNS dysfunction. We have also sought to select cognitive/functional targets that intuitively appear well matched to the specific assets available with the current state of VR technology.

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Use of virtual environments to acquire spatial understanding of real-world multi-level environments

D Stanton, N Foreman, P Wilson, H Duffy and R Parnell, University of Nottingham/Middlesex University/University of Leicester/ Scope London, UK

This article outlines experimental work investigating the way that people encode vertical as well as horizontal spatial information from exploration of virtual environments (VEs). We present two studies using simple multi level VEs that provide novel evidence for a vertical asymmetry in spatial memory, where downward spatial judgments are more accurate than upward spatial judgements. The effect was found in able-bodied adults and children, and in physically disabled children. A third study examined transfer of spatial learning from a VE to a real-world equivalent environment using a simulation of a multi-level complex shopping centre with elderly participants. This study confirms the potential of VEs as training media for the elderly.

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An evaluation of the use of virtual environments in improving choice reaction time in people with severe intellectual disabilities

P J Standen and W M D Ip, University of Nottingham/Queen's Medical School, Nottingham, UK

People with intellectual disabilities are often described as being unable to make choices or decisions. This study set out to test whether choice making or selection from options in a virtual environment would improve the ability of people with severe intellectual disabilities to make decisions or choices in other situations. Volunteers attending an adult training centre were randomly assigned to one of two groups matched on age, sex and ability. The active group (n = 9) received six twice-weekly sessions using the virtual environments while their passive partner (n = 7) sat next to them watching the computer monitor. Before the intervention all participants completed three tests of choice reaction time which were repeated after the intervention. The active group significantly reduced their choice reaction time on two out of the three tests. There was also a decrease in choice reaction time on the third test however this did not reach significance. In comparison, the passive group showed a non-significant decrease in choice reaction time for only one of the tests. Although these results are encouraging, the study needs to be repeated with a larger group and the collection of additional data.

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Session II - Speech and Communication

Session Chair: Tomohiro Kuroda

Generation of modifier representation in sign animation

M Murakami, T Kuroda, Y Manabe and K Chihara, Nara Institute of Science and Technology/Kyoto University Hospital, Japan

Most of the Japanese-to-JSL (Japanese Sign Language) translators utilize CG (Computer Graphics) animation to present translation results. However, foregoing systems cannot produce natural and legible sign expressions for the Deaf, because they are based on word-for-word translation. Our research aims to produce animation including proper modifier representation, which can express nuances of original sentences. This paper proposes a method to include modifier representation into animations automatically.

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Electronic usage of BLISS symbols

N Sandor, G Varady, A Szalmas, C Sik Lanyi and Z Kalman, University of Veszprem/Hungarian Bliss Center, Budapest, Hungary

The desire for communication is every human being's own. It lives in people's mind whose own body deprives themselves of the possibility of relations between people. In the last few decades it was realized that not only the number of people who were kept alive is important, but also their quality of life. One of the base of the prosperities is the ability to adapting themselves to the community. Two different software was made for partially disabled people, using these programs they are able to tell what one has got to say in the easiest and quickest way to their teachers or others, where the point can be a simple conversation, or writing a letter or just a composition. Both application use Blissymbolics, an alternative graphic symbol system that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments find much easier to learn and use than traditional print. First, a Bliss symbols sentence builder serves as a tool for boarders to compose and print Bliss symbol sentences. Second, at the age of the Internet an e-mail reader and writer software was designed especially for Hungarian BLISS users, while the format of the e-mail is compatible with the applications used in international practice.

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Real-time clarification of esophageal speech using a comb filter

A Hisada and H Sawada, Kagawa University, Japan

The only treatment for the terminal symptoms of the laryngeal cancer is to remove the larynx including vocal cords, which mean that the patient loses his voice. Esophageal speech is a method of speech production using an esophagus. An air inhaled in the upper esophagus generates the esophagus vibration to produce a belch-like sound that can be shaped into speech. Although this method has difficulties to be mastered, the voice is able to keep the individuality since the speech is generated by his own vocal organs. This paper introduces a software filtering algorithm which clarifies esophageal speech with the individuality preserved, together with user's evaluations by questionnaires.

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Distinctive training methods and evaluation of a multilingual, multimodal speech training system

K Vicsi and A Vary, Budapest University of Technology and Economics/ELTE Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary

A multilingual, multimodal speech teaching and training system has been developed for 5-10 years old speech handicapped children, in the frame of the SPECO Project, funded by the EU (Contract no. 977126) in 1999. During the training the patients see the speech pictures of the reference speech and listen to the sound of it at the same time. Thus they use the human visual and auditory feedback during their speech learning beside the tactile sensation. A detailed evaluation examination was prepared at the end of the development of the system. Firstly the opinion of speech therapists from different educational field that had been using the SPECO system in their work for a longer period was collected and summarized. Secondly, an objective evaluation was organized to examine the efficiency of the system. It became clear from the objective experiment and from the collection of the opinion of the speech therapists, that the system is a useful and effective teaching aid.

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Session III - Stroke Rehabilitation and Haptics I

Session Chair: Robin Morris

Immersion without encumbrance: adapting a virtual reality system for the rehabilitation of individuals with stroke and spinal cord injury

R Kizony, N Katz, H Weingarden and P L Weiss, Hadassah-Hebrew University, Jerusalem/Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer/University of Haifa, Israel

The purpose of this paper is to present results describing the use of a projected, video-based VR system in neurological rehabilitation. The first part describes the adaptation of several of the VividGroup's Gesture Xtreme projected VR scenarios (control of the type, speed, location and direction of all stimuli) and documentation of all subjects' performance. The second part of paper presents initial results in which the system is being used in a clinical study with stroke patients who display symptoms of left unilateral neglect and other cognitive deficits, with those who require balance training as a result of complete or incomplete spinal cord injuries, and young, non-speaking adults who have cerebral palsy and moderate mental retardation.

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Virtual reality and stroke rehabilitation: a tangible interface to an every day task

D Hilton, S Cobb, T Pridmore and J Gladman, University of Nottingham, UK

At the University of Nottingham, UK, a project is currently in progress which is exploring the application of virtual environments for supporting stroke rehabilitation. The project has focussed on a user centred design approach and has involved consultation with stroke survivors, therapists and stroke researchers. Seminars held during the initial phase of the project offered an insight into the priorities and perspectives of these individuals, from which we identified the activity of making a hot drink as a suitable every day task to study. Although the longer term aim is to investigate a possible role of a virtual environment to support the rehabilitation of a sequential task, our immediate concern is to select a method of interacting with the virtual environment, which is both appropriate and acceptable for stroke survivors. Responding to a preference for naturalistic action and realistic scenarios, a tangible user interface to a hot drink making activity was piloted with stroke survivors resident in the community. The results of this study have improved our understanding of how stroke survivors interact with simulations and highlighted aspects in need of improvement.

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Virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation with the assistance of haptics and telemedicine

J Broeren, M Georgsson, M Rydmark and K Stibrant Sunnerhagen, Goteborgs University, Sweden

A 3D-computer game was used as a training utility to promote motor relearning on a telemedicine platform in a laboratory setting. The subject suffered from a left arm paresis. He was evaluated before and after treatment with a specific hand function task, a standardized grip force measure test and an upper extremity task. Grip force, endurance and the movement pattern of the upper extremity improved after the treatment. The telemedicine platform allows the professional to record and evaluate progress. The findings implicate that training with Virtual Reality and Haptics can promote motor rehabilitation.

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Errorless learning using haptic guidance: research in cognitive rehabilitation following stroke

B B Connor, A M Wing, G W Humphreys, R M Bracewell and D A Harvey, San Francisco State University, USA/The University of Birmingham, UK

This paper presents an approach to rehabilitation of cognitive deficits following stroke using haptic guided errorless learning with an active force feedback (AFF) joystick and computer. While errorless learning (EL) is a proven method of teaching new information to individuals with memory problems, its effectiveness with other types of cognitive and perceptual motor deficits has not been explored. We investigated the effectiveness of haptic guided EL compared to trial and error (errorful: EF) learning on a perceptual motor task with twelve patients who had visuoperceptual deficits following stroke. Individual and group results are discussed.

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Session IV - Brain Injury and Rehabilitation

Session Chair: Helen Neale

Functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of allocentric spatial memory using virtual reality in patients with anoxic hippocampal damage

R G Morris, D M Parslow, S Fleminger, B Brooks, V Giametro and F D Rose, Institute of Psychiatry, London/The Maudsley Hospital/University of East London, UK

The involvement of the hippocampal formation in spatial memory was explored in two single case studies in which anoxic brain damage had produced selective bilateral damage to this structure. To test spatial memory a virtual reality Arena task was designed, consisting of a circular space surrounded by pattern rendered walls. The participants had to navigate within the arena using a joystick to signal motion. In an encoding phase they had to move towards a pole, situated within the arena. The pole was then removed and they had to move towards where it had been either (allocentric) from a different direction, or (egocentric) from the same direction. Brain activity was recorded during the different phases of the task in control participants and then in hippocampally damaged patients. In the controls, bilateral hippocampal activity was found in the allocentric condition only, with a network of activation in other brain regions, associated with spatial processing in both the allocentric and egocentric conditions. Hippocampal activation was not seen in either of the patients, but the remainder of the network showed normal activation.

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Three applications of virtual reality for brain injury rehabilitation of daily tasks

R C Davies, E Lofgren, M Wallergard, A Linden, K Boschian, U Minor, B Sonesson and G Johansson, Lund University/Lund University Hospital, Hoor, Sweden

Part of the process of rehabilitation after a brain injury is the relearning of various daily tasks such as preparing food, managing finances, getting from one place to another and so forth. These tasks require learning on all levels from physical to cognitive. Remembering a PIN code for a bank card, for example, can become automatic and 'in the fingers' after much repetition. However, other tasks require a certain cognitive process, for example, procedures must be followed, quantities estimated, numbers of items remembered or dangerous situations avoided. Even in these cases, repetition of the task many times can help fix the important aspects in the mind. This paper describes three applications of a Virtual Reality based method of rehabilitation which are a part of a larger project to investigate the potential and pitfalls of Virtual Reality technology as a complement to physical training in Brain Injury Rehabilitation. Virtual Reality has the advantage of providing a safe, controlled and highly repeatable environment that a patient can experience in a relaxed manner before having to encounter the potentially dangerous or stressful real environment. The three applications considered here are: kitchen work, an automatic teller machine (ATM) and finding ones way in a complex environment.

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Virtual reality investigation of strategy formation, rule breaking and prospective memory in patients with focal prefrontal neurosurgical lesions

R G Morris, M Kotitsa, J Bramham, B Brooks and F D Rose, Institute of Psychiatry, London/University of East London, UK

Planning and organisational ability was investigated in 35 patients with prefrontal lesions, using virtual reality (VR) to mimic everyday activity, but in a laboratory setting. A multi-componential VR procedure, the Bungalow Task was developed to test strategy formation, rule breaking and prospective memory. The task involved simulation of decision-making whilst a participant moved around a virtual bungalow, selecting furniture for removal according to specified instructions, and various aspects of prospective memory were tested. Significant strategy formation and rule breaking impairments were observed and additional time and activity, but not event based prospective memory impairment observed. The study demonstrates the successful use of VR as a neuropsychological tool for investigating executive functioning in an ecologically valid fashion.

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Developing virtual vending and automatic service machines for brain injury rehabilitation

M Wallergard, M Cepciansky, A Linden, R C Davies, K Boschian, U Minor, B Sonesson and G Johansson, Lund University/Lund University Hospital, Hoor, Sweden

Two different approaches for developing virtual environments (VE) for brain injury rehabilitation are described and discussed. The two VEs are built with the VR software World Up in the form of virtual vending and automatic service machines. The result from the first approach is a virtual cash dispenser that has been tested on five patients with brain injury. Improving the VE according to the test results was found to be quite hard, since it is implemented in a way that makes it difficult to update the code. In the second approach independent programming modules were identified and isolated. The modules were used to build a VE in the form of a train ticket machine. The second approach seems to provide a fast and understandable way of building virtual vending and automatic service machines for brain injury rehabilitation. There might also be the possibility to add a graphical user interface on top of the modules so that, for example, an occupational therapist with no programming experience could build an arbitrary virtual vending machine.

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Session V - Enhancing Mobility

Session Chair: Sue Cobb

Walking aids based on wearable/ubiquitous computing - aiming at pedestrian's intelligent transport systems

T Kuroda, H Sasaki, T Tateishi, K Maeda, Y Yasumuro, Y Manabe and K Chihara, Kyoto University Hospital/Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan

As contemporary transport system including developing Intelligent Transport System (ITS) is vehicle centered, pedestrians especially elders and disabilities are always threatened. This paper proposes a new pedestrian-centered traffic system concept named 'Pedestrian's ITS' (P-ITS) based on ubiquitous and wearable computing techniques. P-ITS consists of various components including wearable computers for people in special needs and distributed computers to sense and control environments. This paper presents two example components, that is, Intelligent Cane, a wearable computer for the Blind, and a ubiquitous computing system to obtain and visualize traffic flow of Pedestrians.

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Research and development project for practical use of robotic travel aid for the visually impaired

H Mori, S Kotani, K Saneyoshi, H Sanada,Y Kobayashi and A Mototsune, University of Yamanashi, Kofu/Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama/Musashino Art University, Tokyo/Hitachi Ltd., Hitachi/Nippon Systemware Co. Ltd., Yamanashi, Japan

Destined to the visually impaired, Robotic Travel Aid (RoTA) acts as an intelligent cart, guiding people across the streets. The 60 Kg, one-meter tall mobile robot is equipped with computer vision system, stereo camera sensor and voice interface. When moving, it is aware of its environment: It recognizes landmarks such as zebra crossing marks or traffic signals, stopping when the light is red, and 'sees' cars or other pedestrians. In case of trouble, the robots communicates wirelessly with a Service Center, allowing to give extra information on the trajectory and adapt the navigational information system.

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Developments of a peripheral vision system using immersive virtual environment

Y Tabata, M Suga, K Minato, O Oshiro, K Chihara and S Nagata, Nara Institute of Science and Technology/Shiga University of Medical Science, Japan

Peripheral vision is one of the important vision that human eye has. To measure the peripheral vision is necessary because there is disease process that can affect the peripheral vision such glaucoma. However, the infant or the aged cannot have a peripheral test. They cannot utilize the conventional perimeter system. The authors proposed a newly perimeter system by utilizing Immersive display. This proposed system enables them to have a peripheral test easily.

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Session VI - Communication and Interfacing to Virtual Environments

Session Chair: Roy Davies

Inclusive design of an interface for a hospital system for information, communication and entertainment

R McCrindle, F Arnold, G Cook, J Barrett and D Booy, The University of Reading/Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, UK

This paper describes the features offered by a hospital portal system for information, communication and entertainment and the work underway to develop an interface to the portal such that all patients regardless of their age, disability, computer experience or native language can use it easily and effectively. The paper discusses the need for inclusive design of the interface to the portal and reports the results and evaluations accruing from the development of the interface to date.

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Development of a computer controlled cognitive diagnostics and rehabilitation method for the use on the Internet

J Szabo, A Pall, C Sik Lanyi and I Pataky, University of Veszprem/National Centre of Brain Vein Diseases, Budapest, Hungary

In this paper we introduce a computer controlled method (HELp Neuropsychology which enables - as a difference to methods used internationally - not only the the diagnosis, but permits measurement of the effectiveness of the therapy. It allows ?? To produce a database of the patients that contains not only their personal the results of the tests, their drawings and audio recordings. ?? It is an intensive therapeutic test which contains tutorial programs too.

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Design of virtual environment input devices for people with moderate to severe learning difficulties - a user-centred approach

T Lannen, D J Brown and P J Standen, The Nottingham Trent University/University of Nottingham, England

This paper describes the continuation of research introduced in a previous paper: 'Access to Virtual Learning Environments for People with Learning Difficulties', presented by the Authors at ICDVRAT 2000 in Sardinia. The research stems from the development of virtual environments (VEs) for people with learning disabilities and findings of usability difficulties with the computer input devices. The first stage of the study, 'understand and specify the context of use', was achieved by conducting a Usability Context Analysis (UCA), which included an analysis of the user population, task and working environment review. The next stage, before proceeding to concept design, was to identify any existing computer input devices that satisfied the device requirements. No satisfactory match was found. Concept design generated many new concepts through the employment of concept generation methods, which were guided by the design specification. A concept selection matrix was then used to select the best concept against the device requirements. Evaluation of the chosen manufactured concept (VR1) followed. Objectives of this user-based assessment were to evaluate the usability of the new input system, to ascertain whether a User Centred Design methodology is a successful approach. The results of this study show that VR1 has greater usability than the more commonly used joystick and mouse for this user population.

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Session VII - Training and Assessment

Session Chair: Skip Rizzo

Virtual environments in cognitive rehabilitation of executive functions

C Lo Priore, G Castelnuovo and D Liccione, Presidio di Riabilitazione Extra-Ospedaliera Paolo VI, Casalnoceto/Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milano/Universita di Padova, Italy

The V.E.Ne.Re. Project (Virtual Executive NEuropsychological REhabilitation) consists in the constuction and validation of artificial environments based on Virtual Reality (VR) technologies, aimed for cognitive rehabilitation of executive functions (frontal lobe dysfunction; dysexecutive syndrome). Damasio (1994) pointed at the discrepancy between non immersive artificial lab tests and real life situations to explain the frequent diagnostic and therapeutic failures that occur when traditional cognitive tools are used with frontal patients. In this perspective, VR environments which are capable to generate a better subjective perception of presence and immersivity, become a very promising alternative to enhance cognitive neuropsychology of executive functions. On these premises, we will describe the current three components of V.E.Ne.Re., with special regard to the V-Store software, which consists in a set of tasks aimed to empower executive functions, attention, short term memory, behaviour control and metacognition. V-Store is planned to offer a high level of interaction and to induce time pressure, eliciting subjective managing strategies. The same environment will be used to implement also the virtual versions of two well-known cognitive tests: V-ToL (VR version of Shallice's Tower of London); V-WCST (VR version of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test). We are currently starting to test our environments, with regards to their clinical efficacy, cost/benefit effectiveness, subjective experience and usability.

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Adaptable virtual reality interface for powered wheelchair training of disabled children

I A Adelola, S L Cox and A Rahman, University of Limerick, Ireland

Childhood development is directly related to being able to independently explore, manoeuvre and interact with one's environment. However, severely disabled children having motor dysfunction often experience impeded motor development, and consequently lack independent mobility. This work relates to the development of the Virtual Environment Mobility Simulator (VEMS) to provide a simple and cost effective choice for powered wheelchair training and rehabilitation. The current area of interest is to study the effects of using real-time wheelchair motion as input for interacting with the home environment. This system provides a home environment delivered on a flat screen computer monitor, and offers simple tasks along with game elements to motivate the user. The widely varied nature of disability, however, requires adaptability of the virtual reality system to specific user training needs. In this paper we propose a conjoint analysis technique to analyse user behaviour, preferences and disability to gear towards the needs of providing an effective training.

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Flexible and virtual travel training environments

D J Brown, N Shopland and J Lewis, The Nottingham Trent University, UK

This paper describes the development and evaluation of a virtual travel-training environment for use by people with a learning disability in developing employment related skills. This environment has been designed to work in conjunction with a mobile agent to provide a comprehensive system to prepare and provide real time assistance to people with a learning disability. The evaluation of the virtual travel training environment via a series of case studies has allowed us to advance the development of previously published design guidelines for virtual environments for use by this user group. The next stage of this study is to obtain baseline assessment of the use of these environments before the design and implementation of a range of virtual tutoring agents. Subsequent evaluation of the enhanced environments will allow us to determine the efficacy of such tutoring agents.

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Session VIII - Acoustic Virtual Environments

Session Chair: Rachel McCrindle

Sound-kinetic feedback for virtual therapeutic environments

I Tarnanas and V Kikis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki/Kozani University of Applied Science, Greece

This paper reports on the results of a pilot study on comparing auditory feedback to visual and kinesthetic only feedback as the more consistent feedback type that leads to developments in kinesthesia, motor planning, sequencing and timing capabilities. Development of kinesthesia, motor planning, sequencing and timing capabilities is tested through a learning and transfer of learning of a new unusual movement skill task. We defined as new unusual movement skill a target oriented movement performed under specific conditions that do not match real life movements. The participants were 28 learning deficient children 10-12 years of age randomly spread across 3 groups. There was the same number of participants across groups and gender balance within groups. All 3 groups went through two (2) Phases. In Phase I, Learning, the participant practiced the new movement across 8 trials using his/her not prevalent hand. In each trial the target was situated at different positions on the surface. In Phase I, each group performed in a different feedback Condition. In Condition A, the Visual Feedback Condition (VFC), Condition B, the Auditory Feedback Condition (AFC), Condition C, No Feedback Condition, (NFC1) In Phase II, Transfer of Learning, all three groups exercise the task with their prevalent hands in a No Feedback Condition(NFC2). The number of trials available was 4 so as training effects could be inhibited. The results showed that the VFC group performed notably better than the other two groups in Phase I (VFC: 95%, AFC: 15%, NFC: 12%). In Phase II, though, the AFC group performed better than the other two. These results indicate that auditory feedback seems to be a consistent feedback type leading to developments in kinesthesia, motor planning, sequencing and timing capabilities. Kinesthesia, motor planning, sequencing and timing capabilities are associated with mental processing and the development of mental structures on both a conscious and subconscious level developed in conditions where sound information is provided as feedback for movement. Even if the sound feedback ceases to exist the user can navigate his/her movement with the aid of these mental structures. The VE consists of a SGI Octane MXI system, a midi output, a digital camera and two laser pointers. The system was programmed in C and it creates an artificial environment that encodes the user's motion and can translate it into music in real time.

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VirtualAurea: perception through spatialized sound

J Sanchez, L Jorquera, E Munoz and E Valenzuela, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

Blind children cognition is currently enhanced by using tactile-based methods such as the Braille system. The use of sound for cognitive purposes is not common in the blind educational community. Even though these facts, an increasingly number of studies are showing that blind children can develop cognitive structures through the interaction with spatial sound. Most studies use specific purpose software to help blind children to construct cognition and learning. A common characteristic of these studies is the absence of robust usability studies that inform of the adequacy and user satisfaction with this sound-based software. This paper introduces VirtualAurea, a flexible software editor for sound-based virtual environments designed 'with' and 'for' blind children to construct their cognition. It also presents a complete usability study to validate the editor with blind learners by using a kit of cognitive tasks. We also determined the impact of the interaction with this software editor on the development of basic cognitive functions, operations, auditory perception, laterality, comprehensive language, and tempo-spatial orientation mental skills of blind learners.

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Interaction with shapes and sounds as a therapy for special needs and rehabilitation

T Brooks, A Camurri, N Canagarajah and S Hasselblad, Kulturcentrum Skaane Lund, Sweden/Universita Degli Studi di Genova, Italy/University of Bristol, Bristol, UK/Emaljskolan, Landskrona, Sweden

Causal interactive audio and visual feedback sourced from whatever faculty is available from children with severe disability and utilised within an adaptable user-friendly interactive environment that encourages, motivates, and is 'fun' to participate within has proved to be a rich resource within which to research towards possibilities for the children to reach their fullest potential. This paper details the practical implementation of further (related to earlier work) various visual media; virtual reality; and associated technologies so as to further enhance the study and to verify the feasibility towards a commercial system product.

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Multi-sensory virtual environment for supporting blind persons' acquisition of spatial cognitive mapping, orientation, and mobility skills

O Lahav and D Mioduser, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Mental mapping of spaces, and of the possible paths for navigating these spaces, is essential for the development of efficient orientation and mobility skills. Most of the information required for this mental mapping is gathered through the visual channel. Blind people lack this crucial information and in consequence face great difficulties (a) in generating efficient mental maps of spaces, and therefore (b) in navigating efficiently within these spaces. The work reported in this paper follows the assumption that the supply of appropriate spatial information through compensatory sensorial channels, as an alternative to the (impaired) visual channel, may contribute to the mental mapping of spaces and consequently, to blind people's spatial performance. The main goals of the study reported in this paper were: (a) The development of a multi-sensory virtual environment enabling blind people to learn about real life spaces which they are required to navigate (e.g., school, work place, public buildings); (b) A systematic study of blind people's acquisition of spatial navigation skills by means of the virtual environment; (c) A systematic study of the contribution of this mapping to blind people's spatial skills and performance in the real environment. In the paper a brief description of the virtual learning environment is presented, as well as preliminary results of two case studies of blind persons' learning process with the environment.

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Session IX - Stroke Rehabilitation and Haptics II

Session Chair: Paul Sharkey

Developing assistive interfaces for motion-impaired users using cursor movement analysis in conjunction with haptic feedback

P M Langdon, F Hwang, S Keates, P J Clarkson and P Robinson, University of Cambridge, UK

Following a pilot study that suggested that haptic force-feedback could, under certain conditions, lead to 20-50% improvements in time to target in a selection task, a series of experiments further investigated the use of haptic feedback modulated on the basis of cursor position. Improvement in times were obtained for specific haptic assistance techniques, particularly for the more impaired users. Cursor path data was simultaneously collected and found to identify particular features or properties of the motion-impaired cursor movement that can be specifically addressed using modulated haptic force-feedback. This suggests that parameters obtained from temporal and curvature analysis of cursor movements for haptic tasks could be used to set or adapt force-feedback in user interfaces, assisting motion impaired computer users.

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Assessing the utility of dual finger haptic interaction with 3D virtual environments for blind people

K Gladstone, H Graupp and C Avizzano, Royal National Institute of the Blind, London, UK/Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa, Italy

Whereas the rapid growth in use of 3 dimensional computer images has proved to be of significant value to many computer users, they have remained totally inaccessible to blind people. The EU GRAB project is seeking to establish the degree to which a dual-finger haptic interface, augmented by audio input and output, can provide non-visual access to this important area of the information world. The haptic interface itself is an entirely new development controlled by a powerful haptic modelling tool. Validation of such a device is a complex procedure, not least because it falls entirely outside of the experience of most users.

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Assessing stroke patients' ability to remember to perform actions in the future using virtual reality

B M Brooks, F D Rose, J Potter, E A Attree, S Jayawardena and A Morling, University of East London/Kent & Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury, England

Difficulties in assessing prospective memory (remembering to perform actions in the future) have contributed to a dearth of empirical evidence as to whether stroke patients are impaired at prospective memory tasks. A virtual environment was used to assess stroke patients' and age-matched control participants' performance of realistic event-based, time-based and activity-based prospective memory tasks. Stroke patients were impaired compared to controls at all the prospective memory tasks, but less impaired at the time-based task. Their prospective memory was more impaired than their retrospective memory, assessed by a free recall test. These results will be useful in directing future stroke rehabilitation strategies to focus on specific memory impairments.

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Session X - Virtual Environments for Special Needs

Session Chair: Penny Standen

Finding a place to sit: a preliminary investigation into the effectiveness of virtual environments for social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders

A Leonard, P Mitchell and S Parsons, University of Nottingham, UK

Seven teenagers with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experienced a Single-User Virtual Environment (VE) of a café, with the learning objective of finding a place to sit in different circumstances. Participants also saw a video of real cafés and buses and were asked to choose where they would sit and why. These measures were taken three times: half of the participants received their VE intervention experience between the first and second videos, and the other half received this experience between the second and third measures. Na´ve raters coded explanations according to level of social appropriateness. There was a significant improvement in the appropriateness of social observations in the learning of specific objectives in the same café context. Generalisation of learning to a bus context was more difficult and more spontaneous for some individuals than others. Conversations referring to the social scenario depicted by the VE were a great learning opportunity for the participants. This emphasised the importance of the teacher's use of the technology as a teaching tool rather than technology that will directly teach students. The results positively encourage the idea that VR could be a good learning tool for social skills for people with ASD.

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Exploring the role of virtual environments in the special needs classroom

H R Neale, S J Kerr, S V G Cobb and A Leonard, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

A series of Virtual Environments (VEs), specifically designed to allow adolescents and adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger Syndrome to practice social skills, have been trialled in a school for students with autistic spectrum disorders. We have taken a qualitative approach to exploring how these programmes might be used to augment traditional teaching practices in a real school. By configuring the VR hardware in different ways and using the programs with various student-teacher combinations we have been able to observe how the VEs are used and to make recommendations as to how they may be modified so they better support teachers and students needs.

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Virtual environment for assessment of rehabilitation equipment

S Nichols, P Frost, S V G Cobb, E Marshall, R Eastgate, J H Park, J Armstrong and C D Ward, University of Nottingham/Derby City General Hospital, UK

Selection of assistive equipment for use in the home can be difficult. In many cases a variety of alternative designs may be available and it can be hard to determine the most appropriate one to select for a particular patient. The Derby Disability Equipment Assessment Centre (DEAC) provides a needs-led evaluation programme for the assessment of assistive equipment designed for older people and people with disabilities. The primary criteria for each equipment evaluation vary for each project, but often include safety, ease of use, aesthetics and ease of cleaning, as appropriate. DEAC consider the views of the people who use the equipment to be an essential aspect of product evaluation, however, it is not always practicable to have patient representatives visiting the hospital to review alternative product designs. Taking a variety of products to users' homes for assessment can also be problematic from the point of view of manual handling, set up and travel for therapists. Visualisation in a virtual environment presenting raiser combinations with different furniture was proposed to as a potential alternative, speeding up the assessment process and minimising manual handling risks. A feasibility study was conducted jointly between DEAC and the Virtual Reality Applications Research Team (VIRART) at the University of Nottingham to evaluate the effectiveness of a VE as a tool for rehabilitation equipment assessment, taking into account usability and acceptance of the tool by rehabilitation therapists and disabled or older people. This paper presents the findings from a case study example of a chair raiser evaluation and a comparison of results in product selection preferences between real and VE viewing conditions.

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