Low Vision

A University of Cincinnati experiment may help people with vision disabilities navigate their environment better. Advance tools based on the Enactive Torch, a hand held device a little larger that a TV remote, aides users with disabilities navigate narrow passages as good as if they had site.

The Enactive Torch uses infra-red sensors to perceive objects. When the torch detects and object, it vibrates similar to a cell phone via an attached wristband. The vibration intensifies as objects become closer.

Read more on the Enactive Torch

A team at Bristol University is using focused ultrasound to create 3D shapes out of air that can be seen and felt. For the visual effect the apparatus is directed at oil. The end result is a 3D haptic shape in mid-air.

The implications for this device are infinite. The current speculation of uses ranges from allowing surgeons to feel a tumor from a CT scan to projecting adjustable knobs in a call allowing drivers to better keep their eyes on the road. This of course has great implications for accessibility as well. Producing something that is both visual and tactile could have great benefits for people with vision disabilities. 

DIGIGLASSES are high tech help for people who are blind or have low vision. The wearable glasses are part of a project kicked off in 2012 aimed at using stereoscopic vision correction to enhance the user’s environment in custom ways designed to make navigation easier and safer. It may do things like enhance contrast or accentuate the edges of curbs and stairs.

The glasses have high resolution micro displays which appear large to the wearer. Similar head-mounted displays have been used by the gaming industry. DIGIGLASSES is looking to apply the technology to enhancing lives.

For more information visit the DIGIGLASSES website.

Guide Dogs UK, Future Cities Catapult and Microsoft have teamed up and developed a prototype wearable device that promises to help people with vision disabilities navigate a city.

The device is a headset that pairs with a Windows Phone and uses GPS, cloud based location and a network of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals placed along a route. The user will hear continuous clicking, which sounds like it’s coming from a meter or two ahead of them. The clicking will guide them along the correct route. In addition, the application provides information on shops, points of interest and additional details to help the user navigate.

A team of neuroscientist and video game designers from the University of Lincoln, UK and the WESC Foundation, a leading specialist school for children with disabilities in the UK, have been testing a new computer game which may help some children with disabilities lead independent lives.  The game called Eyelander is designed to improve the functional vision of children who have vision disabilities related to brain injury.

White Canes help people with vision disabilities navigate but they are not perfect. They can be cumbersome and miss obstacles that are elevated. Electronic Travel Aids (ETAs) have attempted to address some of these issues. Now, a research team at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a new ETA call the “EyeCane,” which allows users to better estimate distance, navigate and avoid obstacles.

Currently the EyeCane is designed to supplement the use of a white cane and improve it’s over all capabilities.  In the future, however, it may replace the white cane entirely. The EyeCane currently expanse they capabilities of a white cane by:

  • Adding 5 meters of navigation information
  • Providing information from more angles
  • Eliminating the need for contact

The EyeCane provides information via both auditory and tactile cues. It can provide distance information from two directions. For more information read the ScienceDaily article on the EyeCane.

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) is working with experts to fine-tune software that prints inexpensive 3-D map for people who are blind or have low vision. The maps are tactile and able to be traced with the fingers.

The GSI intends to release the raw data for the maps online. When the data is loaded into 3-D printers roads, railways and other features are raised by one millimeter on resin plates.

Read more about the 3-D Maps.

New App for People with Vision Disabilities

A new application called SimplEye is equipped with a Braille typing feature and designed to assist people with vision disabilities with all features of their smartphone. The app was launched last week on World Sight Day. The application was developed by Kriyate, a Delhi-based enterprise and was launched by Minister of State for Rural Development Upendra Kushwaha at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The application is available for download at the Google play Store.

Cavena, a manufacturer of subtitling systems, has partnered with Acapela Group to provide voice for its text-to-speech audio description package. Audio description gives greater access to TV content for people who are blind or have vision disabilities by narrating the action during the natural pauses in the audio. The requirement for broadcasters to provide audio description is growing worldwide and across different media.

Users will be able to choose either the original speaker’s voice in a foreign language or the same content in their own language.

For more information visit the Acapela Group or Cavena websites.

Yesterday Google announced improvements to Google Drive and all their editors: Docs, Sheet, Slides, Drawings, and Forms. Many of the changes are targeted specifically toward blind and low-vision users.

Among the changes are:

  • Improved screen reader support for Drive and Docs
    • Improved keyboard access
    • Support for zoom & high-contrast mode
    • Improved usability with the screen readers.
  • Improved screen reader support for Docs, Sheets, Slides Drawings and Forms
    • Support for alt text on images in Docs
    • Improved support for keyboard when editing charts & pivot tables in Sheets
    • Screen reader improvement including spelling suggestion, comments and revision history
    • Quick search of menus and ability to perform actions in Docs, Slide and Drawings.
  • Refreshable Braille display support
  • Step-by-step guides for screen readers and Braille display

Read more on the accessibility improvements. And see the Google Accessibility site.

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