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.
PERCEPT system enhances the perception of the blind and visually impaired in unfamiliar indoor environments, by providing context–aware navigation instructions to the desired destination. It complements existing mobility and orientation aids for the blind, such as the cane and/or dog.
When a user arrives to a building equipped with PERCEPT system he/she enters the requested destination through their Smartphone (e.g., iPhone, Android) using the Smartphone accessibility features. Through the Smartphone, PERCEPT provides audible navigation instructions to the required destination, by using landmarks, number of steps and other options. The system is flexible and can adapt to different usage profiles as determined by the user and the learning mechanisms embedded in the system intelligence. The user can find the landmarks in multiple ways: 1) using their mobility and orientation training, the users can find landmarks such as openings, doors, elevators, etc), 2) using RFID technology, 3) using video recognition software installed on the Smartphone. The system provides statistics to mobility and orientation personnel and has built in management functions that can identify red flags and improvement opportunities. In addition, the system has an automatic procedure to translate building blueprints into the PERCEPT digital space.
PERCEPT system supports a number of unique features such as: a) Low deployment and maintenance 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 user uses carries a Smartphone (e.g. iphone or Android) and instructions are received audibly.
The system is developed at the 5G Evolution Lab directed by Dr. Aura Ganz at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with financial support from the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute, and mentorship from Massachusetts Mobility and Orientation division from Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.
Public Impact Statement/Significance:
The PERCEPT system will 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.
A. Ganz, J. Schafer, S. Gandhi, E. Puleo, C. Wilson, M. Robertson, "PERCEPT: Indoor Navigation System for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Architecture and Experimentation," International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 894869, doi:10.1155/2012/894869.
A. Ganz, J. Schafer, E. Puleo, C. Wilson,. M. Robertson, "Quantitative and Qualitative Evaluation of PERCEPT Indoor Navigation System for Visually Impaired Users", IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, San Diego, CA, September, 2012.
X. Yu, and A. Ganz, "Audible Vision for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indoor Open Spaces", IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, San Diego, CA, September, 2012.
A. Ganz, J. Schafer, S. Gandhi, T. Singh, C. Wilson, G. Mullett, E. Puleo, "PERCEPT: Indoor Navigation for the Blind and Visually Impaired", IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, Boston, MA, September, 2011.