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C. Stephanidis (Ed.): Universal Access in HCI, Part II, HCII 2007, LNCS 4555, pp. 451–459, 2007. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007 The Use of Virtual Reality to Train Older Adults in Processing of Spatial Information Dyi-Yih Michael Lin and Po-Yuan Darren Yang Cogvitive Aging and Digital Interaction Design Lab Dpet. of Industrial Engineering and Management Shou University Kaohsiung 840, Taiwan [email protected] Abstract. The present study examined the effect of virtual reality/VR on training older adults in spatial-based performance. Navigating emergency escape routes in a local hospital was exemplified as the taks domain. 15 older adults and 15 college students participated in an experiment where VR, VR plus a bird-view map, and two-diemtional/2D map presentations were manipulated as within-subject treatment levels of training media. The results indicated that the older subject was less advantaged in identifying the correct turns leading to the emergency exits. While the older subject was also found to have more difficulty in recalling route landmarks, the 2D and VR-plus-map presentations produced significantly stronger spatial memory than the pure VR media for both age groups. When mental rotation was evaluated, the older subject was able to achieve comparable performance if emergency routes were trained by the VR, and the VR-plus-map presentations. Detailed implications were discussed for the design of training media with age considerations. Keywords: virtual reality, training, cognitive aging, spatial performance. 1 Introduction An increasing number of older populations have been a major trend in many societies. Research in aging has shown that normally age is negatively correlated with cognitive functioning, which usually impedes the older adults from quality independent living. In principal, the age-related decline in cognitive function can be accounted for by four basic mechanisms, including processing speed, working memory, sensory function and inhibition [1]. The processing speed theory suggests that nearly all age-related variance on almost any kind of cognitive tasks can be explained by a generalized, decreased speed of performing mental operations [2]. With respect to working memory, [3] indicated that older adults were deficient in terms of the on-line cognitive resources available at any given moment required for information processing activities involving storage, retrieval, and transformation. Another piece of evidence demonstrating cognitive decline with age is that nearly all of the age-related variance was mediated by human sensory functioning, including visual and auditory
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452 D.-Y.M. Lin and P.-Y.D. Yang acuity [4]. [5] pointed out that with age, people have more difficulties in focusing on target information and inhibiting attention to irrelevant material.
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