THE READING OF VIRTUAL MAPS WITHOUT VISION
Uppsala University, Dept of Psychology, Uppsala, Sweden
There are ways available to make virtual maps readable for people with vision problems, but the usefulness of them is uncertain. The aim of this study was to investigate the potentials of two alternatives, a haptic mouse, the VTPlayer (http:// www.VirTouch2.com), and an embossed map on a touch pad (http://www.viewplus.com). For both options tactile, as well as kinaesthetic and auditory information, is provided. Experiments on the usefulness for the task of finding a series of USA states was performed with each of the alternatives, and they demonstrated that the tactile information, in its respective standard form, did not add anything in efficiency to the kinaesthetic and auditory information. In further experiments possible improvements of the tactile information were compared. It was found that the tactile information for the VTPlayer could be improved by changes in the software rendering the virtual maps, but problems with the use of a computer mouse without visual feedback remained, probably due to dissimilarities between the movements with which the user moved the mouse and the motions of the cursor in the virtual scene. In ongoing experiments different ways of making the two movements more similar are studied, including direction of movement and length of movement path. One of the experiments on the tactile information provided by the ViewPlus equipment concerns discriminability of texture, another experiment perception of the forms produced by an embossment printer, in comparison with forms obtained by traditional methods with higher spatial resolution. Tentative conclusions are that both alternatives have potentials as aids for map reading by visually impaired people, but that they can be improved by changes in the tactile information they provide.