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A Cyber Bus For The Learning Impaired

Bits & Bytes


FOR MENTALLY HANDICAPPED INDIVIDUALS, LEARNING TO get around on public transportation often requires some extra work--and, in many cases, repeated guidance from others. It may require as many as 15 trips, each perhaps an hour long, before they know a new route well enough to travel solo. Researchers at the University of Dayton's Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, are trying to help out by creating simulated rides on a virtual bus.

First, students take a computer-aided course to learn basic skills such as boarding the bus and paying the fare. Then, wearing a headset that displays 3-D graphics and stereo sound, each student can view a graphically simulated bus journey, learning where to make transfers and when to signal for a stop. The virtual-reality setup, supplied by Division Inc. in Chapel Hill, N.C., displays the inside of a bus and, through its windows, a simplified, 3-D rendering of the passing streetscape, including buildings and other landmarks. The computer maintains realism by reacting to any head movements and instantly redrawing the scene from any new point of view.

Although the Research Institute mainly focuses on aerospace and industrial markets, it hopes to commercialize the virtual-bus technology. A spokeswoman says it is seeking to license the technology elsewhere.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITY

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