A new framework for cognitive mobility of visually impaired users in using tactile device
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This paper proposes a novel framework for a better understanding of human cognitive locomotion and its interaction with the new tactile technologies that assist mobility and the acquisition of spatial knowledge in the absence of sight [case of visually impaired people (VIP), seniors, etc.]. Unlike the existing mobility models, the proposed framework encompasses four elements: 1) walking with obstacle avoidance, 2) orientation, 3) spatial awareness, and 4) actual physical displacement, and is based on the concept of the tactile gist, a refreshable (dynamic) egocentric tactile representation of the perceived scene. The relevance of the tactile gist concept for achieving the assistance of human mobility has been evaluated with three basic original spatial experiments (homing with obstacle avoidance, localization of a passage and its size estimation, and navigation in an apartment) using a purposely designed perception-movement platform and a touch stimulating tangible wearable refreshable device. The collected results show that the tactile gist might be considered as a scene representation and should be integrated into an assistive device for sightless people. The proposed approach may impact the design of mobility aids for VIP as it reinforces their natural mobility skills and may lead to new mobility strategies of VIP in (un-)known environment. © 2017 IEEE.