The research we are reporting here is part of our effort to develop a navigation system for the blind. Our long-term goal is to create a portable, self-contained system that will allow visually impaired individuals to travel through familiar and unfamiliar environments without the assistance of guides. The system, as it exists now, consists of the following functional components: (1) a module for determining the traveler's position and orientation in space, (2) a Geographic Information System comprising a detailed database of our test site and software for route planning and for obtaining information from the database, and (3) the user interface. The experiment reported here is concerned with one function of the navigation system: guiding the traveler along a predefined route. We evaluate guidance performance as a function of four different display modes: one involving spatialized sound from a virtual acoustic display, and three involving verbal commands issued by a synthetic speech display. The virtual display mode fared best in terms of both guidance performance and user preferences.

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