Game Aspects in Collaborative Navigation of Blind Travelers

Game Aspects in Collaborative Navigation of Blind Travelers

Jan Balata (Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic), Zdenek Mikovec (Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic), Pavel Slavik (Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic) and Miroslav Macik (Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9522-1.ch022


This chapter shows how elements of gamification, i.e. game thinking and game mechanics, can be integrated into a collaborative navigation system for visually impaired persons in order encourage them to travel independently and thus improve their quality of life and self-confidence. The system supports independent navigation in unknown places by mediating help from another visually impaired person, who is familiar with the particular place. Our system utilizes a thermal user interface to introduce an additional communication channel and thus to increase the usability of the system. The system has been successfully enhanced by game elements and illustrates the potential of introducing game elements into these systems.
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The ability to live independently is crucial for the quality of life and the self-confidence of people with special needs. From the perspective of quality of life, the most important activity for visually impaired people is independent traveling. Unfortunately, visual impairment has negative effects especially on the navigation and orientation skills needed for efficient independent traveling (Golledge, 1993). The restricted mobility caused by visual impairment typically results in decreased involvement of visually impaired persons in activities that require traveling (Golledge, Klatzky, & Loomis, 1996). It has been observed (Wycherley & Nicklin, 1970) that visually impaired people experience a high level of stress whenever they try to travel independently. Although they undergo special training where they learn specific navigation and orientation techniques and use more and more sophisticated navigation aids, a study by White and Grand (2009) revealed that almost 30% of visually impaired people never leave their homes independently. Only a fraction of blind people travel independently to unknown places (Golledge, 1999). Restricted mobility typically results in loss of leisure time activities (according to LNS 2004, 38% of visually impaired people reported at least some interference with their leisure activities), loss of career and work opportunities, and loss of social contacts (Caroll, 1961). Independent movement plays an important role in the process of adjustment to blindness. According to the model defined by Tuttle and Tuttle (2004), the adjustment process consists of seven phases:

  • 1.


  • 2.

    Shock and denial,

  • 3.

    Mourning and withdrawal,

  • 4.

    Succumbing and depression,

  • 5.

    Reassessment and reaffirmation,

  • 6.

    Coping and mobilization, and

  • 7.

    Self-acceptance and self-esteem.

Independent movement and the ability to navigate in known and unknown spaces is important for the sixth phase, coping and mobilization, where it can help to develop key competences, such as the ability to work, to create social relations, to act independently, etc.

A tele-assistance center with a navigation instructor can help to tackle the problem of stress level and reluctance to travel to unknown places. The bottleneck in this solution is the limited availability of navigation instructor services and the limited number of routes known with the necessary level of detail. However, according to a study by Balata, Franc, Mikovec and Slavik (2014), visually impaired people memorize relatively long routes at a very high level of detail. This finding led us to base a tele-assistance service on visually impaired volunteers, and to build up a system in which one visually impaired person navigates another. To reach a satisfactory level of efficiency we need to solve two problems. First, we need to reach a critical mass of volunteers who will cover a significant number of routes and to ensure almost non-stop availability of the service. Second, a training methodology for navigation instruction needs to be created. We focus here on the problem of recruiting volunteers, which can be approached by introducing game aspects into the navigation system.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stress: A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

User Interface: Means by which the user and a computer system interact, in particular the use of input devices and software.

Multimodal: Characterized by several different modes of activity or occurrence.

Cognition: A mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Visually Impaired: A partially or completely blind person.

Gamification: An application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.

Navigation: A way or course taken in getting from a starting point to a destination.

HCI: A study, planning, design and uses of an interfaces between people (users) and computer.

Collaboration: An action of working with someone to produce something.

Game: A form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

Haptic: Relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception.

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