Dr. Charalampos Saitis and Dr. Kyriaki Kalimeri from the ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy, recently visited Iceland where they successfully conducted the first outdoor mobility study with visually impaired participants. The study inaugurated the series of outdoor experimentation tasks for the Sound of Vision project and aimed to better understand the challenges faced by the visually impaired as they navigate unknown urban environments.
Eight enthusiastic volunteers with variable degrees of sight loss walked around the centre of Reykjavik in a predefined route especially charted to include a variety of mobility situations, such as orientation in open areas, stairs going down, not signalled pedestrian crossings, crowded streets, and construction works. Those were found to be the most important outdoor mobility challenges from analyses of extensive interviews (approximately 90 visually impaired participants) conducted in four European countries.
Brain (EEG) and body physiological signals (such as EDA, heart rate and others) were recorded from the participants as they walked around the city by means of state-of-the-art non-invasive wearable devices, in an attempt to identify cognitive and emotional biomarkers related to stress or confusion. The study was carried out in collaboration with experienced orientation and mobility instructors from the National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind of Iceland.