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Project name: Hyperstories for Blind Children 

Project number: 113

Category: Health and Quality of life 

City: SANTIAGO 

Country: Chile 

Web address:www.c5.cl/hh 

Description of our project:
The project consists of exposing poor blind children to a methodology that uses an interactive software based on 3D sound to help them to construct cognitive structures that allow them to represent the space through sound. 

Up and running since: 97-3-31 

Brief project summary:
Interactive software is actively used for learning, cognition, and entertainment purposes. Educational entertainment software is not very popular among blind children because most computer games and electronic toys have interfaces that are only accessible through visual cues. This project applies the concept of interactive hyperstories to blind children. Hyperstories are implemented in a 3D acoustic virtual world. In past studies we have conceptualized a model to design hyperstories. This study illustrates the feasibility of the model. It also provides an introduction to researchers to the field of entertainment software for blind children. As a result, we have designed and field tested a virtual environment interacted through 3D audio by blind children. This software enables testing nontrivial interfaces and cognitive tasks with blind children. We explored the construction of cognitive spatial structures in the minds of blind children through audio-based entertainment and spatial sound navigable experiences. Various children from different Chilean blind schools were exposed to first person experiences by exploring highly interactive virtual worlds through the use of aural representations of the space. This experience was structured in several cognitive tasks where they had to build concrete models of their spatial representations constructed through the interaction with the software by using Lego blocks. Our results are increasingly supporting the idea that virtual acoustic environments cannot only serve as entertainment worlds but also can be used to deliver an ample variety of educational materials. In addition, spatialized sound environments rendered without visual cues can bring spatial structures into the mind of blind children. The interactive environment built in this project highly motivates learners, facilitates free navigation, and promotes active constructivist learning by providing blind children with the power to construct virtual environments through dynamic learning materials with audio cues. 

This study was conducted in Chilean schools for blind children, and revealed that it is possible to achieve the construction of mental structures rendered with only 3D sound, and that spatial imagery is not purely visual by nature, but can be transferred through spatialized sound. While our hypothesis was fully confirmed, the data obtained can only be extrapolated to our sample. However, as a result of exposing blind children to the aural environment, we believe that each child possesses both unique skills and pace referred to mental and spatial development, impacting directly on the quality of the topological features obtained in comparison to the ideal reference spatial structure embedded in the software. We develop a set of instruments to measure qualitative and quantitatively the degree of cognitive attainment by the blind children. Finally, after testing and exposing many blind children, we have come out with happy blind children that are highly motivated to have the opportunity to interact with ludic software through their most developed sense, the auditory. 

Age group: <15 

Target group: end-consumer 

Geographical focus: Global 

Number of users interacting with the project each month: 51-200 

Objectives and innovation:
Visual imagery may be loosely definied as visual mental processing that resembles the perceptual mental processing normally induced by the eyes. Our project tries to test the hypothesis that claims that a 3D sound interactive, navigable, aural environment can create mental images in the absence of direct sensory stimuli from the eyes. Our project has demonstrated that it is possible to render a spatial navigable structure by usign only spatialized sound. This mechanism of acoustic representation of the environment preserves the structure, topology, orientation, navigation, and mobility with a notable precision. One important observation collected at the evaluation arises from the possible impact of the child's concrete construction with lego blocks and the mental representation of the spatial environment after exposing to the 3D sound interactive environment. There is a high correlation between the interaction with the environment and the clean representation of the space navigated by 3D sound. 

Number Of Partners:
3
Our Partner(s):
Mauricio Lumbreras, Loreto Jorquera 
Our partner(s)role:
Technical support 

The duration of our project:
1-3 years 

Economically self sufficient:
Yes 

The project has been replicated/adapted:
Yes 

By whom:
The project has been replicated in three Chilean schools and is being replicated in Argentina by Mauricio Lumbreras and in Paraguay by Luca Cernuzzi. 

What you can learn from the project:
Sometimes we think that is too costly to implement software for disabled learners. Here you have an example of a very chip implementation that can be run in any machine, that have a profound impact in children with almost no contact with ludic environments because of their blindness. Here you have an example of a project with a robust technology background, a usability testing, a cognitive task testing, and an integration of computer, cognitive and concrete tasks to fulfill a nice objective: to widen the cognitive and entertainment experience of poor blind children. 

Company: University of Chile 

Address: Department of Computer Science Toesca 2096 

Zip Code: 2777 

City: SANTIAGO 

Country: Chile 

Email: jsanchez@dcc.uchile.cl 

Telephone: (56-2)6731280 

Facsimile: (56-2)6731297