Showing posts with label soundscape. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soundscape. Show all posts

Friday, 31 May 2013

Transcending the Digital Divide

The purpose of this research is to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a non-visual interface for accessing digital information. The aim is to investigate the perceptual and cognitive problems that blind people face when trying to interpret information provided in a multimodal manner. The project also plans to provide touch sensitive and sound based network interface and navigation devices that incorporate cognitive wayfinding heuristics. Haptic (force feedback) interfaces will be provided for exploring web pages that consist of map, graphic, iconic or image products. Sound identifiers for on-screen windowed, map, and image information will also be provided. These tasks will contribute to transcending the Digital Divide that increasingly separates blind or vision impaired people from the growing information-based workplace. Recent research at UCSB has begun to explore how individuals identify features presented through sound and touch. Other research (e.g. O'Modhrrain and Gillespie, 1998; McKinley and Scott, 1998) have used haptics to explore screen objects such as windows, pulldown menus, buttons, and sliders; but map, graphic and other cartographic representations have not been explored. In particular, the potential of auditory maps of on-screen phenomena (e.g. as would be important in GIS applications) has barely been examined and few examples exist of combining audio and touch principles to build an interface. While imaginative efforts to build non-visual interfaces have been proceeding. there is a yet little empirical evidence that people without sight can use them effectively (i.e. develop a true representation of the experienced phenomena). Experiments will be undertaken to test the ability of vision impaired and sighted people from different age groups to use these new interface or features such as: (i) the haptic mouse or a touch window tied to auditory communication displays; (ii) digitized real sounds to indicate environmental features at their mapped locations; (iii) "sound painting" of maps, images, or charts to indicate gradients of phenomena like temperature, precipitation, pressure, population density and altitude. Tests will be developed to evaluate (i) the minimum resolvable area for the haptic interpretation of scenes; (ii) the development of skills for shape tracing in the sound or the force-feedback haptic domain, (iii) the possibility of using continuous or discreet sound symbols associated with touch sensitive pads to learn hierarchically nested screen information (e.g. locations of cities within regions within states within nations); (iv) to evaluate how dynamic activities such as scrolling, zooming, and searching can be conducted in the haptic or auditory domain, (v) to evaluate people's comprehension and ability to explore, comprehend, and make inferences about various non-visual interpretations of complex visual displays (e.g. maps and diagrams), and (vi) to explore the effectiveness of using a haptic mouse with a 2" square motion domain to search a 14" screen (i.e. scale effects).

Friday, 3 May 2013

Haptic Soundscapes

Towards making maps, diagrams and graphs accessible to visually impaired people 

The aim of this research project is to develop and evaluate haptic soundscapes. This allows people with little or no vision to interact with maps, diagrams and graphs displayed via dissemination media, such as the World Wide Web, through sound, touch and force feedback. Although of principal utility for people with severe visual impairments, it is anticipated that this interface will allow informative educational resources for children and people with learning difficulties to be developed and accessed through the Internet. The research project offers a simple, yet innovative solution to accessing spatial data without the need for vision. It builds upon previous work carried out in various departments at UCSB, and fosters inter-disciplinary links and cooperation between usually unconnected research groups. The research hopes to further knowledge and understanding in this emerging field and also to offer practical results that will impact on people's lives. It is strongly felt that the development of the project will lead to continued external funding, and it is our hope that this project will act as a springboard to further research in which UCSB will be a key component.

Further development, usability testing, and expansion
 
The Haptic Soundscapes project has developed a set of audio-tactile mapping tools to help blind people access spatial information and to help aid research in multi-modal spatial cognition. These tools offer blind people access to the geographic world they cannot otherwise fully experience, creating opportunities for orientation, navigation, and education. Spatial knowledge from maps, charts, and graphs, is obtained through display and interaction with sound, touch, and force-feedback devices. Individuals can use audio-tactile mapping tools to explore an unknown environment or create a audio-tactile map from images displayed on a computer screen. These audio-tactile maps can be disseminated over the internet, or used in educational settings. Next year, several objectives are planned for the Haptic Soundscapes project. These include cognitive experiments to assess a user’s ability to navigate within a scene, between adjacent scenes, and between scenes of different scales using the audio-tactile mapping tools. We will also expand the capability of the audio-tactile mapping system to include text-to-speech synthesis and real-time multi-dimensional sound representation. Several off-campus funding proposals will be submitted. Finally, we will showcase the tools developed in the course of this project by expanding our campus demonstrator - an interactive, navigable audio-tactile map of the UCSB campus.