The Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Laboratory, directed and operated by Dr. Nicholas Giudice and Dr. Richard Corey, is part of the Spatial Informatics program in the School of Computing and Information Science at the University of Maine. The VEMI Lab is a one-of-a-kind research and educational facility with the mission of studying and designing cutting-edge nonvisual and multimodal technologies in order to improve environmental perception, navigation, and information access for blind/visually impaired people, for older adults, or for anybody in need of eyes-free environmental access. Three key factors set VEMI apart from any other facility in the world: our research approach, our team, and our technology.
Our research is unified by three primary concepts:
1. An interest in spatial information processing. Most of what people consider visual information is really spatial information and can be similarly conveyed through nonvisual senses and technologies.
2. An emphasis on multimodal information. Our brains are designed to process multiple channels of sensory input from vision, touch, hearing, etc., so technology should be designed to do the same thing.
3. A focus on interactive information. Active engagement best facilitates learning, imagination, and conceptualization.
Who benefits from our research:
1. Blind and visually impaired (BVI) users. This category includes over 12 million people in the U.S. and 285 million people worldwide.
2. Older adults. By the year 2030, over a third of the 70+ million people 65 and above are predicted to have some form of visual impairment.
3. Anyone in need of eyes-free environmental access. Sighted people are often blind to their environment (e.g. texting while walking) and require nonvisual information access (e.g., eyes-free applications).
What sets our team apart from other labs and companies?
Dr. Giudice’s background in experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and human-computer interaction, combined with Dr. Corey’s background in user experience design, interactive media, and marketing, equips us to truly understand human-centric technology design.
Our lab, located at Carnegie Hall on the University of Maine campus, houses the university’s first, and Maine's only, emerging technology facility. We combine a fully immersive, multimodal virtual reality (VR) installation with augmented reality (AR) technologies in an integrated research and development environment. As described in depth on our Virtual and Augmented Reality page, there are many advantages to using these technologies as research tools, as a development and usability platform, or as an informatic framework for information visualization.
VEMI frequently collaborates with other researchers and commercial partners on joint research projects to provide cutting-edge nonvisual multimodal technology to blind, older, or eyes-free users, or to create one-of-a-kind interactive multimodal visualizations. Our expertise allows us to bridge the gap between researchers or companies developing high-tech products and end users. See our Collaborations and Commercial Partners page to learn more.
VEMI often participates in outreach and interaction with the public, providing interactive demonstrations and encouraging engagement with new and exciting technology and its applications. We provide tours of our cutting-edge facility to interested groups and organizations, as well as contribute to large-scale public events such as the Maine Science Festival. If you are interested in having our lab participate in an external outreach event, please see our Public Education Policy, as a downloadable PDF.
We are always looking for people to participate in our studies, motivated students to join the lab, and academic or commercial collaborators for new research ventures. Please get in touch if you are interested in our work, have transformative new ideas, or want to schedule a tour of our facilities. You can contact the lab by email or by phone at (207) 581-2151.