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Grantham blind society tests 'life changing' mobile app

Members at South Lincolnshire Blind Society have been working with the University of Lincoln to develop new mobile technology that could enable visually-impaired people (VIPs) to ‘see’ through their smartphone.

The app, also known as the ActiVis project, is being developed by a team at the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (LCAS) and aims to help people with sight problems navigate unfamiliar indoor environments.

It will do this by directing the user towards a target object or location in space. This can be particularly useful for people with vision impairments to help them find objects they might be looking for, for example on a shop rack.

Members of South Lincs Blind Society, in Finkin Street, Grantham, have been road testing part of the new app’s audio-based user interface.

Jacobus Lock, a PhD student at LCAS, is working on the app alongside project leads Dr Bellotto and Dr Cielniak.

He said: “We hope that it will enable a user to live a more independent life by not having to rely on a friend or family member to find objects for them. Hopefully this will increase a person’s independence and enable users to play a more active role in modern society.

“Currently there are commercial apps available that can tell a user what the mobile camera is currently seeing, however they do not direct a user towards a target object and it’s up to the user to get their desired object within view of the camera.

“We’re looking into making a similar but active system that can actually direct a user towards their object or area of interest.”

Despite the positive feedback from the VIPs, the project is still very much in its early stages of development.

Jacobus added: “This is purely academic research work so we can better understand the problem and how we can solve it. A commercial version of the app will not be available for quite some time.”

South Lincs Blind Society operations manager Susan Swinburn said: “Our service users are really excited to be at the forefront of this innovation alongside the university and developing something that could be life changing for people all over the world.”

For more information on the project, visit lcas.github.io/ActiVis

If you would like to participate in the experiments, email jlock@lincoln.ac.uk or call 01522 886897.

South Lincs Blind Society and pupils from Lincoln University. (7399824)
South Lincs Blind Society and pupils from Lincoln University. (7399824)

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