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  1. null (Ed.)
    Though virtual reality (VR) has been advanced to certain levels of maturity in recent years, the general public, especially the population of the blind and visually impaired (BVI), still cannot enjoy the benefit provided by VR. Current VR accessibility applications have been developed either on expensive head-mounted displays or with extra accessories and mechanisms, which are either not accessible or inconvenient for BVI individuals. In this paper, we present a mobile VR app that enables BVI users to access a virtual environment on an iPhone in order to build their skills of perception and recognition of the virtual environment and the virtual objects in the environment. The app uses the iPhone on a selfie stick to simulate a long cane in VR, and applies Augmented Reality (AR) techniques to track the iPhone’s real-time poses in an empty space of the real world, which is then synchronized to the long cane in the VR environment. Due to the use of mixed reality (the integration of VR & AR), we call it the Mixed Reality cane (MR Cane), which provides BVI users auditory and vibrotactile feedback whenever the virtual cane comes in contact with objects in VR. Thus, the MR Cane allows BVI individuals to interact with the virtual objects and identify approximate sizes and locations of the objects in the virtual environment. We performed preliminary user studies with blind-folded participants to investigate the effectiveness of the proposed mobile approach and the results indicate that the proposed MR Cane could be effective to help BVI individuals in understanding the interaction with virtual objects and exploring 3D virtual environments. The MR Cane concept can be extended to new applications of navigation, training and entertainment for BVI individuals without more significant efforts. 
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