Learning to Drive a Wheelchair in Virtual RealityBy Inman, Dean P.; Loge, Ken; Cram, Aaron; Peterson, Missy; Journal of Special Education Technology, Volume 26, Number 3, pages 21-33
Publication Date: 2011
Study developed and evaluated the effect of a training program that enabled children with physical disabilities to practice driving virtual motorized wheelchairs safely within a computer-generated world. For the program, named WheelchairNet, programmers created three virtual worlds for training: Scenario 1, wherein children can explore a large open space at any speed within the software and hardware limits; Scenario 2, a closed environment with obstacles the children have to learn to circumvent, various stations to explore such as tall obelisks and tunnel-like structures, and virtual hazardous surfaces such as ice and mud; and Scenario 3, which provides a more structured environment to establish appropriate street crossing skills on a crosswalk with a traffic light. Also added to WheelchairNet was the Automated Cyber Instructor (ACI), which monitors each user’s performance in real time and makes adjustments to reinforcements to improve wheelchair driving skills over time. WheelchairNet was evaluated with 7 female and 6 male participants aged 4 to 20 years with severe orthopedic disabilities. Examination of individual test data revealed that participants spent most of their time in the first or second worlds in the early stages but, as their skills improved, they began to spend proportionally more time in the more difficult street-crossing scenario. All participants showed gains in driving skills as indexed in actual reality. This was found to support the contention that children with severe orthopedic disabilities can acquire important functional wheelchair skills in virtual reality without the risks of learning to drive in the real world and the cost of obtaining an actual wheelchair while they learn.
Published by: Exceptional Innovations (Website:http://www.exinn.net)
Technology and Media Division (TAM) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) (Web Site: http://www.tamcec.org )