Sign In

Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Virtual Maps For the Blind

View as: Print Mobile App Share:

BlindAid, developed by Tel Aviv University's Orly Lahav, is a new program that helps the blind navigate through unfamiliar locations. BlindAid digitally maps real-world places and, with the help of a pre-existing three-dimensional haptic device, enables blind users to navigate them virtually before visiting them in person.

The program uses a joystick that produces different sensations under a user's fingertips. "Walking" around a virtual room, blind users can feel a digital wall ahead when the stick tenses; it also recreates the feeling of grass, sidewalks, asphalt, and tiled floors. Moreover, the device replicates sounds, such as the hiss of an espresso machine to indicate a nearby coffee shop, or the ringing of phones for a customer service desk.

Lahav gave the program to several volunteers from the Carroll Center for the Blind. After three or four uses of BlindAid, a partially blind woman successfully visited 12 unknown, real-world locations while wearing a blindfold. Lahav says that blind users "get feedback from the device that lets them build a cognitive map, which they later apply in the real world. It's like a high-tech walking cane." She says that with the help of a geographic information system, the program could help blind users explore any unknown area virtually before visiting it alone in the real world.

From American Friends of Tel Aviv University
View Full Article


Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


No entries found

Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account