Responses to a Virtual Reality Grocery Store in Persons with and without Vestibular Dysfunction


People with vestibular dysfunction often complain of having difficulty walking in visually complex environments. Virtual reality may serve as a useful therapeutic tool for providing physical therapy to these people. The purpose of this pilot project was to explore the ability of people with and without vestibular dysfunction to use and tolerate virtual environments that can be used in physical therapy. We have chosen grocery store environments, which often elicit complaints from patients. Two patients and three control subjects were asked to stand and navigate in virtual grocery stores while finding products. Perceived discomfort, simulator sickness symptoms, distance traveled, and speed of head movement was recorded. Symptoms and discomfort increased in one subject with vestibular dysfunction. The older subjects traveled less distance and had greater speed of head movements compared with young subjects. Environments with a greater number of products resulted in more head movements and less distance traveled.


Figure above shows me traveling though the Virtual Grocery Store, the software components were built and installed by me at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Virtual Reality Center.  Navigation and view point control is facilitated using an input device attached to the handle bar of the shopping cart attached to the floor of the CAVE.  Natural walking is facilitated by the treadmill that I am standing on.  The virtual environment is displayed on three screens surrounding the user.



Whitney, S.L., Sparto, P.J., Hodges, L.F., Babu, S.V., Furman, J.M., and Redfurn, M.S. (2005). Responses to a virtual reality grocery store in persons with and without vestibular dysfunction. The Fourth International Workshop on Virtual Rehabilitation (IWVR 2005, Sept. 19-21, Catalina Island, CA). [PDF]