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San Francisco, CA — (SBWIRE) — 04/05/2013 — A new video game that creates a computer-generated layout of a building is now helping prepare the blind to navigate the venue in real life. The software does so by improving spatial awareness, researchers noted in a release.
The game, which is based on a building at the center for the blind in Newton, uses audio cues to assist the blind players in finding hidden jewels and remove them from the building without being spotted by ‘roving monsters’.
After completing the game, researchers noted that players were able to find their way through a real-life counterpart to the building, suggesting that videogames in general can assist in navigation for the blind.
“It is a tool to build a map of a place you have never been to before,” said Dr Lotfi Merabet, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, whose team developed the software used in the game.
Marebet is hopeful that the video game will be the first step toward and improved assistance technology movement tailored toward the blind, particularly teenagers who are more interested in technology and media.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 285 million visually impaired persons span the globe.
“It could be a whole new way to help blind people interact with this information and conceptualize space around them,” Merabet added in an interview. “The video game not only allows you to build a map in your mind, it allows you to interact with it mentally in a way that you wouldn’t be able to if you were taught explicitly (by walking through it,” Merabet explained.
Researchers tested the game on congenitally blind individuals and others who lost their sight. The players ranged anywhere from their teens to 45 years old. Marabet and his team spoke on the video game in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, and noted they want to include a larger scale mapping for their next version of the game.
“Somehow you become a better problem solver and you seem to somehow take in the information in a more robust fashion in this gaming scenario than if you sat down and we told you,” said Merabet.
“Video games are not just for sighted people. Blind people can not only play them but interact with them and enjoy them, and they can also be used to do constructive things.”
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