Tools for the handicapped
Author: Cheryl Eslinger
Virtual reality's input devices offer new ways of communicating
and navigating. The wired glove is part of a system called Glove
Talker, which relates specific glove movements to specific sounds
so the computer can speak for persons who have lost the ability
to speak [DUTTON92]. Quadriplegics have used VR technology to
move objects on a computer screen using only their eyes.
Biosensors can be used to control robotic manipulation
[KNAPP92]. For example, a robotic arm can be controlled using
biosensors which sense muscle movement in the neck.
Music and entertainment
Electronic instruments that produce music from bioelectric
signals are referred to as Biomuse [KNAPP90]. These systems
produce music from standard MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital
Interface) instruments. The system can use the electrical
signals from muscle (EMG), brain waves (EEG) and eye movements
As an entertainment media, virtual bodies may have few
limitations. Physically handicapped persons would be able to
participate in virtual sports or virtual dancing. A virtual
environment can more easily be adapted to the user's abilities
than the real world. Means of communication and navigation could
be customized to the user to achieve maximum effectiveness.
The Disabilities Act of 1992 dictated that all public buildings
must now accommodate the needs of the physically disabled. The
method most often used by architects involved building cardboard
models of a design in order to simulate what it would be like to
navigate through it with a wheelchair. Using VR headgear and
input sensors, physically handicapped persons can now virtually
walk through the design examining the spacing, dimensionality and
reach of objects such as cupboards and tables. This has
simplified the expensive design/feedback process [SCHMITZ93].
Dutton, G., "Medicine Gets Closer to Virtual Reality." IEEE
Software, September 1992, p.108.
Knapp, R. B., and Lusted, H. S., "Biocontrollers for the
Physically Disabled: A Direct Link from Nervous System to
Computer." Department of Electrical Engineering, San Jose State
University and Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford
Knapp, R. B., Lusted, H. S., and Nagler, J. C., "Musical
Performance by the Handicapped Generated from Bioelectric
Signals." Stanford University and Center for Computer Research in
Music and Acoustics, Stanford CA: 1990.
Schmitz,B., "Virtual Reality: On the Brink of Greatness."
Computer-Aided Engineering, April 1993, pp.26-32.
Human Interface Technology Laboratory