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Advances in Human-Computer Interaction
Volume 2013, Article ID 163718, 6 pages
Research Article

Blind Sailors’ Spatial Representation Using an On-Board Force Feedback Arm: Two Case Studies

CNRS UMR 6285 LabSTICC-IHSEV/HAAL, Telecom Bretagne, Technopôle Brest-Iroise, CS 83818, 29238 Brest Cedex 3, France

Received 13 May 2013; Accepted 18 November 2013

Academic Editor: Kerstin S. Eklundh

Copyright © 2013 Mathieu Simonnet and Eamonn Ryall. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Using a vocal, auditory, and haptic application designed for maritime navigation, blind sailors are able to set up and manage their voyages. However, investigation of the manner to present information remains a crucial issue to better understand spatial cognition and improve navigation without vision. In this study, we asked two participants to use SeaTouch on board and manage the ship headings during navigation in order to follow a predefined itinerary. Two conditions were tested. Firstly, blind sailors consulted the updated ship positions about the virtual map presented in an allocentric frame of reference (i.e., facing north). In the second case, they used the forced-feedback device in an egocentric frame of reference (i.e., facing the ship headings). Spatial performance tended to show that the egocentric condition was better for controlling the course during displacement, whereas the allocentric condition was more efficient for building mental representation and remembering it after the navigation task.