Master’s Thesis

Augmenting the Spatial Perception Capabilities of Users who are Blind

People who are blind face a series of challenges and limitations resulting from their lack of being able to see, forcing them to either seek the assistance of a sighted individual or work around the challenge by way of a inefficient adaptation (e.g. following the walls in a room in order to reach a door rather than walking in a straight line to the door). These challenges are directly related to blind users’ lack of the spatial perception capabilities normally provided by the human vision system. In order to overcome these spatial perception related challenges, modern technologies can be used to convey spatial perception data through sensory substitution interfaces. This work is the culmination of several projects which address varying spatial perception problems for blind users. First we consider the development of non-visual natural user interfaces for interacting with large displays. This work explores the haptic interaction space in order to find useful and efficient haptic encodings for the spatial layout of items on large displays. Multiple interaction techniques are presented which build on prior research, and the efficiency and usability of the most efficient of these encodings is evaluated with blind children. Next we evaluate the use of wearable technology in aiding navigation of blind individuals through large open spaces lacking tactile landmarks used during traditional white cane navigation. We explore the design of a computer vision application with an unobtrusive aural interface to minimize veering of the user while crossing a large open space. Together, these projects represent an exploration into the use of modern technology in augmenting the spatial perception capabilities of blind users.

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