/BlindAid: An Electronic Travel Aid for the Blind

BlindAid: An Electronic Travel Aid for the Blind

Sandra Mau, Nicholas Melchior, Maxim Makatchev and Aaron Steinfeld
Tech. Report, CMU-RI-TR-07-39, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, May, 2008

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The goal of BlindAid project is to develop navigational assistance technology for the blind or visually impaired. Specifically, we seek to develop a portable Electronic Travel Aid (ETA) for visually impaired users, along with the accompanying radio frequency identification (RFID) localization infrastructure used to equip buildings. In our research through literature, interviews and ethnographies with the visually impaired and rehabilitation service workers, as well as interviews with various researchers we identified that one of the major problems the visually impaired experience is trouble with indoor navigation in unfamiliar buildings. Imagine the wide open spaces in an airport concourse; even if there are braille signs at the counters, the blind may not be able to find them! There has been little done in regards to indoor navigation in current assistive technologies, known as Electronic Orientation Aids (EOA), possibly due to high cost for instrumentation and limited capabilities. BlindAid’s goal is to break down these barriers by introducing an EOA system which is relatively inexpensive for both the blind and the businesses that equip their buildings. We propose using RFID tags to set up a location–tagging infrastructure within buildings such that the blind can use an RFID equipped ETA (such as a cellphone) to determine their location as well as software that can utilize this localization data to generate vocal directions to reach a destination. Having done the background research and developed the BlindAid Navigational Assistance idea in a previous semester (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~phri/BLINDAID/index.shtml) we decided to continue pursuing this idea through the V–unit by prototyping the device to determine whether BlindAid is technologically and commercially feasible and whether it can improve the experience of the blind user. Results from both phases of research are presented in this report.

BibTeX Reference
author = {Sandra Mau and Nicholas Melchior and Maxim Makatchev and Aaron Steinfeld},
title = {BlindAid: An Electronic Travel Aid for the Blind},
year = {2008},
month = {May},
institution = {Carnegie Mellon University},
address = {Pittsburgh, PA},
number = {CMU-RI-TR-07-39},
keywords = {blind navigation, assistive technology, electronic travel aid, quality of life},