Spatial learning and navigation using a virtual verbal display

Giudice, N.A., Bakdash, J.Z., Legge, G.E., & Roy, R. (in press). Spatial learning and navigation using a virtual verbal display. ACM Transactions on Applied Perception.

We report on three experiments that investigate the efficacy of a new type of interface, called a virtual verbal display (VVD) for non-visual learning and navigation of computer-based virtual environments (VEs). Although verbal information has been studied for route-guidance, little is known about the use of context-sensitive, speech-based displays, e.g. the VVD, for supporting free exploration and wayfinding behavior. During training, participants used the VVD (Experiments I and II) or a visual display (Experiment III) to search the VEs and find four hidden target locations. At test, all participants performed a route-finding task in the corresponding real environment, navigating with vision (Experiments I and III) or from verbal descriptions (Experiment II). Training performance between virtual display modes was comparable, but wayfinding in the real environment was worse after VVD learning than visual learning, regardless of the testing modality. Our results support the efficacy of the VVD for searching computer-based environments but indicate a difference in the cognitive maps built up between verbal and visual learning, perhaps due to lack of physical movement in the VVD.