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Wayfinding for the Blind & Visually Impaired Using Passive Environmental Labels

Principal researcher

Name: Dr. James M. Coughlan

Contact details: Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, 2318 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States of America.
Tel: +1 415 345 2000
Email: coughlan@ski.org

Website: www.ski.org/rehab/coughlan_lab/

Project details

Start date: 30/09/2006
End date: 31/08/2009

Description: The objective of this proposal is to tackle the problem of wayfinding faced by blind and severely visually impaired persons who are unable to find or read signs, landmarks and locations. We propose a novel and inexpensive environmental labeling system to provide access to information needed for indoor wayfinding (where GPS is not available).

The system uses simple passive landmark symbols printed on paper or other material, placed next to text, Braille signs or barcode at locations of interest (offices, bathrooms, etc.) in an environment such as an office building.

These printed patterns contain spatial and semantic information that is detected using computer vision algorithms running on a standard camera mobile phone. By scanning the environment with the device, which detects all landmark symbols in its line of sight up to distances of 10 metres, the user can determine his or her approximate location in the environment as well as the information encoded near each landmark symbol. The system extracts this information in real-time and communicates it to the user by sound, synthesized speech and/or tactile feedback. This information includes spatial (e.g. audio tones to indicate the presence and direction of a label in the camera's field of view) and semantic information ("Mr. Johnson's office, room 429, at 11 o'clock").

The research proposed here will produce a prototype system that will be tested by blind and low vision subjects. Our team includes a blind expert on psychoacoustics (and other in-house blind staff) and an expert consultant on low-vision way finding and navigation to help optimize the user interface and guide development into a practical, easy-to-use system.

Other organisations involved in this project

Last updated: 19/03/2010