Worldwide, 161 million people have vision impairment, and without intervention that number is expected to almost double by 2020. The blind and visually-impaired encounter serious problems in leading an independent life due to their reduced perception of the environment. New environments pose a huge challenge for them to perceive their surroundings without seeking help from others. Current training programs for blind and visually-impaired people in University settings require them to memorize a large amount of information for numerous buildings, leading to an increase in frustration on their part. To build an effective assistive technology system for the blind and visually-impaired, one of the biggest challenges is to model real-world problems faced by them in a software system that could address these issues. In order to enhance the perception of indoor and unfamiliar environments of the blind and visually- impaired, as well as to aid in their navigation through such environments, we propose a novel approach that provides context-aware navigation services. PerceptSpace, which is generated using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), tagged spaces (audio landmarks, kiosks), and Bluetooth tracks, enables a ubiquitous computing system with contextual awareness of its users while providing them persistent and context-aware information. We present the system architecture called PERCEPT that supports a number of unique features such as: a) Low deployment cost;b) Scalability, i.e. we can deploy the system in very large buildings;c) An on- demand system that does not overwhelm the user, as it offers small amounts of information on demand;and d) Portability and ease-of-use, i.e., the device carried by the user is compact and familiar, and instructions are received audibly. The proposed system will complement existing mobility and orientation aids for the blind, such as the cane and/or dog. The overall goal of this proposal is to develop, deploy, and test the PERCEPT system. Accordingly, we have two Specific Aims: 1) To design and create an initial PERCEPT system prototype that will assist the blind and visually-impaired in navigating through unfamiliar indoor environments and 2) to evaluate the performance of the PERCEPT system. We hypothesize that the PERCEPT system will show increased accuracy, improved time to destination, a level of information disseminated that enhances perception without feeling overwhelming, decreased frustration, user-friendliness, and high overall satisfaction. PERCEPT is different from other systems in the following aspects: 1) it offers small pieces of information to the users that can be handled by them and on their choice, unlike the Chatty Environment;2) it offers portability in the end-device by using a PDA;3) it does not require line-of-sight operation;and 4) it involves a scalable and inexpensive deployment (includes passive RFID and Bluetooth tracks) while leveraging existing communication infrastructure such as WiFi.

Public Health Relevance

Worldwide, 161 million people have vision impairment, and without intervention that number is expected to almost double by 2020. The blind and visually-impaired encounter serious problems in leading an independent life due to their reduced perception of new environments. We propose a system that provides enhanced perception of new indoor environments using RFID- equipped and Bluetooth-enabled PDAs as the end device.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Type
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
5R21EY018231-02
Application #
8139782
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SBIB-Q (90))
Program Officer
Wiggs, Cheri
Project Start
2010-09-30
Project End
2013-05-31
Budget Start
2011-06-01
Budget End
2013-05-31
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$219,397
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Department
Engineering (All Types)
Type
Schools of Engineering
DUNS #
153926712
City
Amherst
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
01003
Ganz, Aura; Schafer, James; Puleo, Elaine et al. (2012) Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of PERCEPT indoor navigation system for visually impaired users. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2012:5815-8
Yu, Xunyi; Ganz, Aura (2012) Audible vision for the blind and visually impaired in indoor open spaces. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2012:5110-3
Ganz, Aura; Gandhi, Siddhesh Rajan; Schafer, James et al. (2011) PERCEPT: indoor navigation for the blind and visually impaired. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2011:856-9