Our aim is to create a simulation that immerses individuals in the
experience of a mobility-impaired person in a wheelchair attempting to
escape a burning two-story shopping center using Virtual Reality (VR).
Through inducing frustration, our simulation seeks to raise awareness
and foster empathy towards disabled individuals and the importance of
accessible facilities during emergencies. Participants are expected to
navigate their way to safety, whether independently or with
assistance. They will also have the opportunities to explore different
paths and methods to escape, although making the wrong choice may lead
to simulated death.
The simulation presents several challenges, including the spreading fire that progressively restricts players' mobility, the rising heat from the heater machine that adds urgency to escape before time runs out, the virtual smoke that limits visibility, and the panic-inducing screams of others. By confronting these obstacles, participants gain firsthand insight into the difficulties faced by mobility-impaired individuals in emergency situations, promoting understanding and compassion.
Our project consist of 2 main technical aspects which are the physical wheelchair and virtual environment.
The Physical Wheelchairs
We created 2 types of assistive mobility devices as our controllers:
wheelchair and evacuation chair. The wheelchair is a
manually operated by controlling the wheel or being assisted by
someone. Usually, this type of wheelchair can be found in hospitals
for carrying a mobility impaired/injured person. Evacuation chair is
a compact and foldable mobile chair that's used to assist people
with mobility impairment going down the stairs during an emergency
situation, such as a fire. Evacuation chair is usually stored in a
visible area near the emergency stairs. However, a disabled person
cannot operate evacuation chair alone. Other's asssistance is needed
in order to operate this chair.
We constructed the wheelchair by modifying a regular chair by adding bicycle wheels and PVC pipes as the handles into it. Since the wheelchair is mounted to a fixed place, the wheelchair isn't able to move physically. However, the wheels and handles are Used to rotate and control the movements of the wheelchair in its virtual environment.
To capture the inputs we use Arduino lilypads which are connected to the input sources. In this case, both the handles are read using capacitive touch from each edges of the handles. The evacuation wchair has a tilt feature, to operate the evacuation chair, users need to tilt the chair and press the toggle button in the Arduino lilypad to move forward or backward in its virtual environment.
The Virtual Environment
As we are talking about the emergency situation, in particular a burning mall we create a virtual environment of a burning mall using Unity. To make the exprience more immersive, we use VR Headset that will be worn by the users while sitting in the wheelchair. This headset allows user to navigate through the virtual environment while sitting in the wheelchair.