Visual E-Book from SIET for Visually Impaired Persons

Dear Colleagues,

SIET launches visual e-book  based on a software which could run on a mobile platform, a tablet PC environment, and on a regular desktop/laptop. Its going to be a major revolution for those with visual disabilities.

Here is the news report from The Hindu.

SIET readies visual e-book

It could help children with special needs.

A sure help for children with special needs, who are irked by the black-on-white constraints of the world of printed books, is the new audio-visual e-book that State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET) has come out with.

The SIET’s new venture is a scaled up version of the ‘dynamic e-textbook’ developed by the instituted some months ago. The institute has already started receiving enquiries about the e-book from various countries, including some African countries.

The e-book also boasts a ‘voice search response’ system, and Braille software complete with a keyboard, in addition to bringing onto a single platform text, audio, video, graphics, animation, and reference tools.

The SIET director Babu Sebastian told The Hindu here that the specialty of the e-book software was that it could run on a mobile platform, a tablet PC environment, and on a regular desktop/laptop. “I will say that our USP of this project, as was with our dynamic e-textbook project, is that we have been able to make it platform-neutral. The software is such that we can convert the soft copy of any textbook into a dynamic audio-visual e-book,” he explained.

As in the case of the ‘dynamic e-textbook’, the e-book would allow to student to listen to a lesson instead of reading it, Dr. Sebastian said . “A visually impaired child can use the voice search facility to ask the e-book to read out a lesson to him. All he has to do is to say clearly the name of the lesson or the page number. The child, if he does not understand a concept, can use the voice command to ask the textbook to explain the same to him or get the meaning of a word from the voice-driven dictionary,” he said. The e-book also had a provision to ‘freeze’ the audio component so that a child with difficulty in hearing can use it effectively.

Much like the dynamic e-textbook, each lesson in the new e-book would have embedded in it pictures, graphics, video clips and animated clips. The ‘book’ would also sport ‘virtual labs’ to help the student understand experiments of various kinds, Dr. Sebastian said.

The e-book boasts a ‘voice search response’ system and Braille software.

To read from source click here: The Hindu

Melbourne woman gets world’s first bionic eye

Melbourne woman gets world’s first bionic eye
Daily Mail

A BIONIC eye has given an Australian woman partial sight and researchers say it is an important step towards eventually helping visually impaired people get around independently.

Dianne Ashworth, who has severe vision loss due to the inherited condition retinitis pigmentosa, was fitted with a prototype bionic eye in May at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

It was switched on a month later, and on Thursday researchers revealed the results.

“ It was really funny when it switched on I was waiting, waiting,” she said.

“ I had these goggles on and I didn’t know what to expect, and I don’t know if anyone did know what I was going to see.

“ Then all of a sudden I went ‘ yep’ I could see a little flash and it was like a little, I suppose, a splinter.

“ There were different shapes and dark black, lines of dark black and white lines together.

“ Then that turned into splotches of black with white around them and cloudlike images.

“ I can remember when the first bigger image came I just went ‘ wow’, because I just did not expect it at all but it was amazing.” The bionic eye, designed, built and tested by the Bionic Vision Australia, a consortium of researchers partially funded by the Australian government, is equipped with 24 electrodes with a small wire that extends from the back of the eye to a receptor attached behind the ear.

It is inserted into the choroidal space, the space next to the retina within the eye.

“ The device electrically stimulates the

retina,” said Dr Penny Allen, a specialist surgeon who implanted the prototype.

“ Electrical impulses are passed through the device, which then stimulate the retina. Those impulses then pass back to the brain, creating the image.” The device restores mild vision, where patients are able to pick up major contrasts and edges such as light and dark objects.

Researchers hope to develop it so blind patients can achieve independent mobility.

“ Di is the first patient of three with this prototype device, the next step is analysing the visual information that we are getting from the stimulation,” Allen said.

The operation itself was made simple so it can be readily taught to eye surgeons worldwide.

“ We didn’t want to have a device that was too complex in a surgical approach that was very difficult to learn,” Allen added.

Similar research has been conducted at Cornell University in New York by researchers who have deciphered the neural code, which are the pulses that transfer information to the brain, in mice.

There, researchers have developed a prosthetic device that has succeeded in restoring nearnormal sight to blind mice.

According to the World Health Organization, 39 million people around the world are blind and 246 million have low vision.

“ What we’re going to be doing is restoring a type of vision which is probably going to be black and white, but what we’re hoping to do for these patients who are severely visually impaired is to give them mobility,” Allen said.


A shoe that guides the Blind

Innate Haptic shoe for the blind developed to do away with walking canes

A hand out to someone is on any day way better than closing two hands in prayer, and that is exactly what some brilliant mind out there are determined to inculcate into their lives. Anirudh Sharma a young researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Bangalore, India is one such individual who invested his time and mind into developing and all new system for the blind that will allow them to do away with walking stick. The idea for a haptic shoe that guides its blind owner through the city and every nook and corner of the surrounding areas propped up at the Design and Innovation workshop (organized by MIT)in Pune, Maharashtra that took place from 24-28 January.

Called very aptly as “Le Chal” meaning “Take Me” the shoe is fitted with a system that has vibrators at each end of the shoe to indicate direction. For example according to the input from the GPS system via Bluetooth communication the shoe makes vibration in the front, back, left side or right side to indicate the desired direction to move.

This is a very viable solution as compared to some other systems like voice-based navigation systems that can be complex and distracting, not to mention the hefty price tags they carry which can be very expensive for most people. But with the Le Chal shoe all these anomalies are out of the window in one go. The only thing needed to properly operate the navigation system in the shoe is mobile phone with GPS capabilities, so that the user can input the destination via the app specially designed for this mechanism.

The app operates via Google maps, updating the information in real time using the GPS transmitter in the phone. The vibration in the shoe corresponding to the data fed from the information is stronger if the user is close to the destination and weaker if they are not yet there. To calculate the distance of nearby objects there is also a proximity sensor so that the user doesn’t bum into roadblocks, other people or moving vehicles. You can imagine the selflessness of the guy who made this system by the fact that he has plans on releasing the make method of the haptic shoe in a DIY guide, with no intends of making money from it.

Tactile landmarks to help navigate indoor spaces for Blind Users

Navigating Blind Users in Indoor Spaces using Tactile Landmarks

Indoor navigation systems for users who are visually impaired typically rely upon expensive physical augmentation of the environment or expensive sensing equipment; consequently few systems have been implemented. We present an indoor navigation system called Navatar that allows for localization and navigation by exploiting the physical characteristics of indoor environments, taking advantage of the unique sensing abilities of users with visual impairments, and minimalistic sensing achievable with low cost accelerometers available in smartphones.
How it works

For outdoor navigation localization with high precision is required as users are more likely to veer whereas in indoor environments navigation is constrained by physical infrastructure such as walls and doors and veering is less likely. Precise localization comes at a significant higher cost; as augmenting indoor environments with RFID tags is often prohibitively expensive. To facilitate large-scale deployment of an indoor navigation system, less precise but less expensive localization solutions need to be explored. Dead reckoning localization is cheap and can be achieved using sensors (accelerometer/compass) already present in current mobile devices. Dead reckoning is relative accurate for short distances but inaccurate for longer distances as errors accumulate of time.

Particle filters are used to estimate the user’s location based on the sensor data as well as the user confirming the presence of tactile landmarks along the provided path that are extracted from a virtual representation of the environment, which allows for mitigating the error of dead reckoning. This type of interaction seamlessly integrates with how users with visual impairments navigate familiar spaces as this includes the identification of known tactile landmarks. Navatar has a high possibility of large-scale deployment, as it only requires an annotated virtual representation of an indoor environment, for example, created in Google Sketchup. A user study with 12 blindfolded and six blind users demonstrates the feasibility of our approach and shows we can locate the user with 1.85 meter accuracy. We identify several areas for improvement.


A reader for the visually impaired

A reader for the visually impaired

(Click here to read from source: Indian Express)

The Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO), Chandigarh, has designed a reading machine for the visually impaired that will help them read books, letters, magazines and other documents that are not in Braille without the help of a third person. CSIO is a premier national instrumentation research laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India.

“Translating text into Braille is not only time consuming but also very expensive,” said Pawan Kapur, director, CSIO. Two different designs have been developed by a team of CSIO scientists headed by Dr H K Sardana, who conceptualised the instrument around four years ago. In the first design, a pair of high resolution cameras captures an image of the document using step-by-step scanning. A minimum of four such steps are required to scan an A4 page, while a book page may be covered in only two or three steps. The instrument takes 15 to 30 seconds to convert an A4 size printed document into speech. In the second design, a portable scanner (horizontal scan length of 210 mm) is used to scan the printed document as a whole. One can scan the document after connecting the handy scanner to USB1/USB2 and listen to the recognised text using headphones.

The instrument uses a controlling unit which converts the scanned image to text document using optical character recognition techniques and this text document is read aloud with the help of text-to-speech conversion. The controlling unit also comes with a keypad user interface with various options. With the help of nine keys one can modulate speech coming out of the instrument and can also navigate to various features. The user can also use a set of voice commands to operate the instrument. This portable system can also be battery operated.

“The instrument was demonstrated at Institute of Blind, Chandigarh. We are planning to approach government agencies and NGOs for partnerships,” said Kapur.


Now you can get Artificial Retina in the market

Artificial retina in European market

The world’s first artificial retina, Argus II, produced by U.S. company Second Sight Medical Products, was approved for sale in the European market. The
new product can give to people who have partially blind due to retinal degenerative diseases and will be available through several treatment centers in Europe, at a price of $ 100,000.

Artificial retina consists of several parts: a pair of glasses with a video camera sends images to a processing node, which in turn transforms images into
electrical impulses that are transmitted to an array of electrodes implanted in the retina of the wearer. The system offers a resolution of 60 pixels (picture
points), compared with tens of millions, he offers a healthy eye, but will allow users to discern shapes and distinguish light from dark.

The device was tested on 30 patients so far, and positive evaluations of European authorities led to the approval of the product for sale in Europe. Starting this summer, Argus II will be available at a price of $ 100,000 in
these medical centers:

* Centre Hospitalier National des Quinze-Vingts d’Ophthalmologie (Paris, France)
* Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (Geneva, Switzerland)
* Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (Manchester, United Kingdom)
* Moorfields Eye Hospital (London, UK).

Click here to read from Source: Human Store

Additional reading: Weekly Blitz