Podcast Episode 17 - Accessible Yoga for the Blind

This week on the IAP, we discuss software that makes yoga accessible to the blind using the XBox Kinect to determine body movement and position.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Hey, welcome to the IAP. Thanks for helping us keep it accessible. Do us a favor. If you're enjoying the IAP, share it. Tell someone about it. Hey! Even link to it from your accessible website. Mike...

Mike Guill: Mark, how are you doing?

Mark: I'm doing well. I'm kind of in the mood for a little bit of yoga. Tell us a little bit about this article you found on yoga accessible for the blind. This is a Microsoft Kinetic-based program that makes yoga accessible for the blind.

Mike: Yeah, Kinect. It's the...

Mark: Oh, Kinect. I'm sorry.

Mike: Yeah, it's a system that is an add-on for the Xbox.

Mark: Do you have a Kinect at home?

Mike: I do not. I'm a PS3-kind of person.

Mark: Yeah, we have the PS3 and the Xbox, but we never took the leap into the Kinect.

Mike: Yeah, I didn’t either. But it does seem pretty interesting and going forward, it may be something that's good for my family in the future. I'm not sure where that's going to go. This is fascinating to me because this is not something that’s built into the Xbox Kinect system. This is something that a university team created to work with the Kinect system. The gist of it is that a team of folks at the University of Washington created a piece of software that watches the user's movements and then gives them feedback on their yoga poses. So what would typically be – a lot of people are familiar with the WiiFit program where you get in the balance board or you do exercises based on that...

Mark: ...which could be a little challenging if you don't have sight.

Mike: Right! So it doesn't really provide that much feedback. The feedback is all visual based on the screen usually and it shows you where your center of gravity is or where you have to lean toward.

[cat meowing]

Can you hear my cat?

Mark: That's a cat in the background, which is interesting that you've got meowing at the background of the podcast since if you look at this article, they've got a video. I don't know if you had paid attention to the video, but the cat completely ignored the instructions as it walked by and the woman was doing yoga. It ignored the audible instructions that the yoga program was giving to the woman without vision.

Mike: Cats are well-known for ignoring...

Mark: Yeah, they really are. My dog is very well-behaved. He does exactly what I say. My cat looks like me like, "What? Are you trying to make me do something? I don't think so. I'm going to go and eat grapes now. I'll see you." So anyway, it's really interesting. You know what? Building it out, the program, it's basic. It's just geometry that this program sort of uses to determine whether or not you're doing yoga poses correctly and then it gives you feedback based on the geometry of what you're doing. They show that the woman is trying to do – I think it's Warrior 2. Her arms are basically supposed to be at 80° angle there almost parallel to the ground. She's got him kind of down at a 45° angle, so it's sort of making this triangle shape. The program recognizes that as incorrect. Her arms are supposed to be higher. Basically, it says, "Raise your arms higher closer to your head."

Mike: Yeah, it goes even further than that because it's able to read position of the body relative to the camera too. So you can even say things like "rotate your shoulders left" or "lean sideways toward your left". That's a lot more descriptive than just "raise your arm, lower your leg."

Mark: It is! And I think the other really smart thing that they put into it right away was the positive affirmation like, "Hey! Your legs look great. That's correct. Your arms are correct." It goes and tells you what's correct too which is smart because, as an instructor that kind of instructs on these sort of things (and I'll get into that in a little bit), people need that. They don't just need to know what they're doing wrong, but they need to know that what they're doing right is right otherwise they question it and second-guess it. And you'll get that. You'll get those questions. "How about this? How about that? Am I doing that right?"

Mike: Well, as a sighted user, I can say that I fall into that category too.

Mark: Well, that's what I'm saying, yeah because in teaching somebody to do something...

Mike: I’m not that great in yoga, so I don't know what I'm doing.

Mark: Yeah. Well, just in teaching somebody to do something with their body in general, it's not enough to go, "This is wrong," you also have to go, "And that's right." So, I was very impressed to see that in the program. If you get a chance to watch this video (I'm talking to the listeners now), it's real quick and it sums it right up. As I was watching the video, I was thinking, "Yeah, I were blindfolded, I'd be following this just fine." So I think it's useful. And the other thing, Mike that is interesting to me about this is that the podcast that we did in Google Glass, this sort of new camera technology – and you were talking about this earlier off-mic – this sort of new technology is getting very sophisticated. We're able to do things like you said earlier like facial recognition. It's amazing what the camera is kind of turning into. When I think about it, I always think about it in terms of sort of a replacement for the eyes, so if you don't have vision, the camera starts to become your vision and then feeds you information that somebody with vision would get that's helpful for you to get however it delivers it, right? But this is interesting because it's flipping that around. Now the camera is looking at the person without vision and giving them feedback and I had never stopped to think about that kind of an application with a camera and using the camera as an assistive technology in that manner. So it's one of those things where now I'm sitting back on, "Hmm.. what else could you do that with?" Do you now put cameras in a house and have – if you've got kind of a talking house thing going on or something, could the camera say, "Hey, the coach has been moved... this is here... watch out for that... you're about to run into this," you know what I mean? I'm just thinking off the cuff, but what are the implications of now these cameras being able to give information on the environment and information on the relative position of the blind person in the environment. I’m sure somebody else has thought about that, but it's a new, new way of thinking for me anyways after seeing this accessibile yoga.

Mike: No, I agree. I have quite a number of friends who are blind and one of the things that I know about them is that they keep a pretty close circle of friends who they'll get information from in real life, in real-time about the world. For example, it's not uncommon for one of my blind friends to lean over to me and say, "If for some reason today, Mike my clothing looks out of order, let me know" or something they want a heads-up about to keep a neat appearance. "Don't let me run... we're going to walk along the sidewalk and I'm not going to use my cane so we can chat. Let me know if I'm about to run into a mailbox or something." That's the kind of stuff that cameras can provide when they don't have that person to rely on or maybe they don't necessarily want to have a person like that to rely on. And the same thing about your smart house idea. That's a great idea because it can be a need in lots of things like doing your hair or your make-up or...

Mark: Who knows where else.

Mike: ...or yeah, moving the furniture around the house or whatever it is.

Mark: Those are simple quick thoughts that we're having, but who knows how deep that runs. The assumption is that a blind person lives alone and their furniture doesn't move and there's never a ball on the floor and all that, but the reality is that lots of times, people are living in group situations where somebody might drop something or leave something or whatever. So how awesome would it be to be able to provide that information. The other thing I wanted to bring up too that's interesting, I was talking to a gentleman named Bruce who's blind. And he was on a blind sailing team. So when I talk to a lot of people that don't have a lot of contact with people with disabilities or the blind specifically, lots of times, I realize they have this impression that blind people don't do much because it's so challenging, which you and I know is not the case. They're very active. It kind of kills me sometimes. Human beings are just human beings. They're just human beings without sight, so of course they want to go out and be active just like anybody who want to go out and be active. And if they're anything like me, they don't let something like not being able to see stop them, right? But one of the things that I do with my time is I study Brazilian Jujitsu (a couple of types of Jujitsu, but I'm thinking specifically right now Brazilian Jujitsu). I do a lot with my eyes closed because it's all about tactile sensitivity. It really is. There's nothing else about it. So when I see these things like yoga and I know how excited somebody without site must be to have this kind of thing available to make something like yoga just that much more accessible, it makes me think about these other things that may also be able to be taught in a similar fashion like Brazilian Jujitsu, which is – I wish that blind people would knock my door down because there's no barrier other than maybe not being able to see somebody do a technique. Somebody would really have to be a tactile in teaching you the technique as well, which is not a problem. But being able to have a replacement for the videos and stuff that people can watch to kind of brush up on their technique, having this kind of feedback with the camera being able to help with that as well is an interesting thought. I think there's just lots of potential here.

Mike: A lot.

Mark: Yup! Well, alright, Mike this was a good one. I'm glad you came up with it. Now I'm going to sit back and be wondering what other ways we can use cameras to provide assistance as an assistive technology.

Mike: Yeah, I think we're going to have to check back on the progress of stuff like this and see if we can find anything else around.

Mark: Yeah, we have to. Alright! Well, this is Mark Miller...

Mike: And this is Mike Guill...

Mark: ...reminding you to keep it accessible.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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