Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

Navigation and Obstacle Avoidance

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  • Moving around the environment and passing through objects is a skill many humans take for granted. Our ability to judge whether we are able to fit through a gap is remarkable but only something we tend to noticed when we make an error. Anna and Kate are interested in how adults and children make this type of judgement.

    We asked participants to walk through an aperture which could either be smaller than shoulder width (requiring a shoulder turn) or wider than should width (allowing free passage). We used an infra-red 3D motion capture system to track the movement of the participant as they approached and passed through the aperture.

    In adults we have seen that most aspects of gait were tailored to aperture size, so the amount the participant slowed prior to passing through the aperture, the degree of shoulder turn and the time allowed for the turn was all dependent on the exact aperture size. 

    Wilmut, K. & Barnett, A. (2010) Locomotor judgements while navigating through apertures. Human Movement Science, 29, 289-298

    In children we found very similar results, however, we also saw that the children took their movement abilities into account. So a child who showed more lateral sway (side to side movement) while walking left larger safety margins than a child who swayed less. 

    Wilmut, K. & Barnett, A. (2011) Locomotor behaviour of children while navigating through apertures. Experimental Brain Research, 210, 185-194

    These results only consider one aspect of navigation, many perceptual processes are also important when navigating, we are currently extending this research to consider these aspects of navigation in a group of children with movement difficulties.