On the Development of Haptic-Virtual Learning Systems for the Education of Blind People

On the Development of Haptic-Virtual Learning Systems for the Education of Blind People

Raquel Espinosa Castañeda (Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico) and Hugo Ivan Medellín Castillo (Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Mexico)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2325-4.ch014

Abstract

The concept of inclusive education goes beyond considering the needs of people with disabilities; it refers to the process of recognizing the students' learning needs and to act according to such needs. People with visual limitations do not necessarily require more attention and dedication than other people; they only need to be initially guided and to have accessible information. Thus, one of the main challenges of universal education is to generate inclusive and assistive educational technologies, which can be used for the teaching and learning of people with disabilities. In this chapter, the development and assessment of haptic-enabled virtual reality learning systems for the education of non-sighted people are presented and discussed. These virtual systems represent the research work conducted to promote the accessible education of blind people and to determine the effectiveness of virtual touch in the education of blind people.
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Introduction

According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, and delivery of quality learning and teaching (UNESCO, 2017). Thus, one of the main challenges of education is to generate inclusive and assistive educational technologies, which can be used for the teaching and learning of people with disabilities. However, although the use of ICT in education has increased exponentially in the last two decades, little research efforts have been made in order to develop assistive technologies to enhance the educational process of people with disabilities, in particular blind people.

Since many years ago, several studies have shown that the human sense of touch is a psychological source of knowledge. Recently, the progress in computer technologies have led to the development of virtual reality and haptic systems, which are able to provide virtual touch and information about size, shape and physical properties of virtual objects. Moreover, computer haptic systems can also be used to generate mental representations of virtual objects. However, although virtual reality and haptic systems have been widely used in science and engineering, little research work has been done in the design and application of such systems in education; in particular, in the teaching and learning process of visually impaired individuals.

In this chapter the development and assessment of two haptic-enabled virtual reality learning systems for the education of non-sighted people are presented and discussed. These systems are designed considering the special educational needs of blind people, i.e. user centered-design (UCD), and aim to provide educational tools that are accessible to visually impaired people. The proposed virtual systems represent the research work that has been conducted in the last years by the authors to answer the research question: how effective can virtual touch (haptics) be used for the education of blind people?

The first system, named as CIGI, is a novel interactive cinematography system that incorporates the sense of touch in movies by using virtual reality and haptics devices, and aims to teach art and film to blind people. To do this, the system creates a virtual world for the blind user to explore, touch and feel by means of a haptic device that enables the sense of touch. The second system aims to improve the teaching and learning process of the Braille system. The main function of this system is to show on the computer screen different 3D virtual objects that correspond to Braille texts for the user (blind people) to feel and touch them by means of the haptic device.

Key Terms in this Chapter

HVR Teaching-Learning System: It is an HVR unit that incorporates all the teaching-learning aspects and parts, namely students, teachers, curriculum, content and evaluation of instructional objectives.

Immersion Level of a VR System: Refers to the level of how deeply the user is sensorial involved inside a virtual environment.

Learning Systems: An ecosystem where teaching and learning can coexist along with several other functionalities of the didactic process.

Haptic-Virtual-Reality System: HVR systems allow to virtually touch objects through a robotic arm and at the same time see them on the screen.

Legally Blind Person: When the central visual acuity or ability to perceive figures and forms is 20/200.

SEN: Special educational needs.

Inclusive Education: To have the ability to adapt educational content by accepting the SEN of the students.

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