App for blind and visually impaired
Date Posted: 04.11.2012
A new technology is being developed at University College Cork to guide blind and vision-impaired students around the campus through the use of a simple smartphone app.
In partnership with the department of computer science, the disability service at UCC is developing a guidance system that will further bolster the extensive orientation training already given to guide dog and long cane users on campus.
The university currently has the largest number of blind students of any higher education institution in Ireland – 10 totally blind students and 24 students who are vision impaired.
Mary O’Grady, head of the disability support service at UCC, said that navigating the extensive campus could be a real challenge for blind or visually impaired students.
“The research team began addressing this challenge by asking vision-impaired students to share their day-to-day experiences of traversing campus.
Most were able to navigate independently using either a guide dog or long cane, but only after extensive training.
Individuals who used existing wireless devices, such as talking GPS systems, often reported problems, including unreliable signals and incompatibility with other aids,” she said.
Dr Ian Pitt, who is leading the research with PhD student Tracy Mehigan from the department of computer science, explained that an initial pilot of the new system showed that students could successfully navigate parts of the campus using signals from wireless navigation beacons through Bluetooth 4.0 technology.
The new application can provide students with their exact location on campus, outline the best route for them to take to their required destination and can also help students find services on campus.
“Ensuring that the technology can run on one of the most popular devices among students and staff alike – the smartphone – has been instrumental in future-proofing this concept.
“The prototype system is currently undergoing further user testing, with the potential for ongoing development to benefit students, staff, and even tourism, appearing boundless,” Dr Pitt said.
Source : The Irish Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2012