Having a visual impairment can be a lot struggle when it comes to travelling around or even walking around in neighbourhood. A lot of times we have noticed people struggling to walk around even if they are well trained. Being a Delhi University student, it’s not hard to notice these people hovering around on the road. Yes, it’s true, other people can help but often i have noticed that these people want to be more independent than they are.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that there are about 285 million people who are Visually Impaired and 39 million among them are Blind. There is a difference between being Visually Impaired and being Blind. Let’s get it cleared first. A person with visual impairment is said to have some remaining useful vision that cannot be corrected by glasses or lenses. On the other hand, being blind is when a person is unable to see objects properly at a distance of 3 meter or less.
Recently, technology has played a vital role in reducing the day-to-day struggle of visually impaired people. With evolution of smartphones, a lot of apps have come up to improve the experience of these visually impaired or blind people. The most common example of this is Talk-Back, an app found in all android smartphones, which helps blind and vision-impaired users to interact with their devices. It gives audio and vibration feedback whenever you perform an action on your smartphone. If you want to activate this feature, just go to settings > Accessibility > Enable Talkback (If you have already installed it on phone) or just download it buy searching Google Talkback in Playstore.
Another app which was recently added on Playstore is Guide Dots. While Talback lets you interact with your devices, Guide Dots lets you interact with real world. This app basically detects your location (via GPS) and uses audio – vibration alerts (Uses Google Talback) to notify you about the nearby places like restaurants, shops, historic places and even friends. Yes Friends!! This app with Facebook integration lets you find nearby friends.
“We let people know what’s around them more than a cane can, broadening their horizon more than a six foot circle around them,” said Deborah Vandeven (CEO) at VML, Inc. (creators of the app).
The app is free on Playstore and aim to give more independence to visually impaired and blind people. A similar app which is found on Appstore (iOS) is Blindsquare which helps visually impaired to find popular places nearby by using location data from Foursquare. The app can be purchased for $23.99 and is available in over 15 languages.
But what’s more of a problem for these people is walking safely on the street. Even if they are well trained or walk using white cane, it doesn’t ensure their safety. Moreover, India is not well known for its road traffic which further puts these people in dangerous situations (given they are all on their own).
Fortunately, researchers in University of Alicante in Spain have developed an app which uses built in 3D camera of a smartphone to detect obstacles and create sound or vibration to alert the user. As the user goes nearer to the object, the frequency of sound or vibration increases.
The app was tested with nine participants who were visually impaired and couldn’t see the objects without any help. During the test, the participants were made to wear a LG Optimus 3D around their neck with camera facing forward. But that is not desirable as no one would want to hang a phone around their neck.Keeping that in mind, the team in Spain is reportedly working on a Google Glass version of the app which would make the app more useful and convenient to use.
“The camera is much more stable on the head than any other part of the body. That improves the results for all vision algorithms because the camera swings much less,” said researchers from University of Alicante in Spain.
Other Apps which can be useful are TapTapSee (free for Android and iOS) which helps users to find out what is the object by simply clicking a photo of the same, ColorID (by GreenGar) helps users to find out the colour of an object by using your phone’s camera.