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Use of 3-D Audio as aNavigational Aid for a Virtual Environment

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"Use of 3-D Audio as aNavigational Aid for a Virtual Environment", (2002)
C. Ordˇ˝ez, A. Barreto, and N. Gupta

ABSTRACT: Studies at our laboratory have resulted in a new method of helping a blindfolded person transverse a virtual environment where four spatialized sounds, placed at different locations using Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTFs), were delivered through headphones and used as navigation cues. In this project a synthetic virtual environment is defined by a maze of vertical and horizontal walls drawn on the computer screen using Matlab's Graphic User Interface (GUI) components. The subjects, represented by the cursor, are asked to navigate the synthetic virtual environment, where the distances from the cursor to the nearest virtual walls are calculated continuously and used to control the intensity of four virtual sounds that are simulated as if originating at the front, back, left and right of the subject. A fifth sound is also used to prevent the subject from hitting a virtual wall. After this first test, the subjects are asked to navigate through a second maze where only a warning sound will be played, thus, representing a navigation mechanism similar to the one blind individuals employ in real life. This document will present the results obtained with 14 subjects, confirming that the remote navigation cues provided by the spatialized sounds are more helpful in avoiding collisions with the virtual walls than a simple warning tone provided to the blindfolded user in the immediate vicinity of the walls.1