In the Near Future, Smartphones Might Help the Blind ‘See’

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In the Near Future, Smartphones Might Help the Blind ‘See’

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Scientists are developing a new technology that would enable blind people to see through their cell-phones and tablets. The technology is being developed at the University of Lincoln, UK where specialists in computer vision and machine learning are trying to create a system that would describe new environments to people with sight challenges. The program is funded through a Google Faculty Research Award.

“This project will build on our previous research to create an interface that can be used to help people with visual impairments,” says project lead Dr Nicola Bellotto, an expert on machine perception and human-centred robotics from University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science.

The team will use colour and depth sensor technology inside smartphones and tablets to enable 3D mapping and localisation, navigation and object recognition. Then it will develop the best interface to relay that to blind users – through vibrations, sounds or the spoken word.

“There are existing smartphone apps that are able to, for example, recognise an object or speak text to describe places. But the sensors embedded in the device are still not fully exploited. We aim to create a system with ‘human-in-the-loop’ that provides good localisation relevant to visually impaired users and, most importantly, that understand how people observe and recognise particular features of their environment,” says  Dr. Belloto

To recognise the visual clues in an environment, the team will develop a system. The data will be detected through the device camera and identify the type of room as the user will move around the space. The more accustomed the blind user gets, the more quicker and easier it would be for the system to identify the room.

It’s important to celebrate and encourage all kinds of technology that help the impaired. This is a major step towards the future.

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Tejan Mitra