Virtual Reality Systems as an Orientation Aid for People Who Are Blind to Acquire New Spatial Information

Orly Lahav*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This research aims to examine the impact of virtual environments interface on the exploration process, construction of cognitive maps, and performance of orientation tasks in real spaces by users who are blind. The study compared interaction with identical spaces using different systems: BlindAid, Virtual Cane, and real space. These two virtual systems include user-interface action commands that convey unique abilities and activities to users who are blind and that operate only in these VR systems and not in real space (e.g., teleporting the user’s avatar or pointing at a virtual object to receive information). This research included 15 participants who are blind, divided into three groups: a control group and two experimental groups. Varied tasks (exploration and orientation) were used in two virtual environments and in real spaces, with both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The results show that the participants were able to explore, construct a cognitive map, and perform orientation tasks. Participants in both virtual systems used these action commands during their exploration process: all participants used the teleport action command to move their avatar to the starting point and all Virtual Cane participants explored the environment mainly by using the look-around mode, which enabled them to collect spatial information in a way that influenced their ability to construct a cognitive map based on a map model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1307
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022


FundersFunder number
National Institutes of Health?National Eye Institute
National Institutes of Health
National Eye InstituteR21EY016601, 5R21EY16601-2
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
European CommissionFP7-PEOPLE-2007-4-3-IRG
University of Nottingham


    • Blind
    • Cognitive map
    • Orientation and mobility
    • Spatial perception
    • Virtual reality


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