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  • 1.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Haptic Navigation Aids for the Visually Impaired2016Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    Assistive technologies have improved the situation in society for visually impaired individuals.The rapid development the last decades have made both work and education much more accessible. Despite this, moving about independently is still a major challenge, one that at worst can lead to isolation and a decreased quality of life. To aid in the above task, devices exist to help avoid obstacles (notably the white cane), and navigation aids such as accessible GPS devices. The white cane is the quintessential aid and is much appreciated, but solutions trying to convey distance and direction to obstacles further away have not made a big impact among the visually impaired. Onefundamental challenge is how to present such information non-visually. Sounds and synthetic speech are typically utilised, but feedback through the sense of touch (haptics) is also used, often in the form of vibrations. Haptic feedback is appealing because it does not block or distort sounds from the environment that are important for non-visual navigation. Additionally, touch is a natural channel for information about surrounding objects, something the white cane so successfully utilises. This doctoral thesis explores the question above by presenting the development and evaluations of dierent types of haptic navigation aids. The goal has been to attain a simple user experience that mimics that of the white cane. The idea is that a navigation aid able to do this should have a fair chance of being successful on the market. Theevaluations of the developed prototypes have primarily been qualitative, focusing on judging the feasibility of the developed solutions. They have been evaluated at a very early stage, with visually impaired study participants.Results from the evaluations indicate that haptic feedback can lead to solutions that are both easy to understand and use. Since the evaluations were done at an early stage in the development, the participants have also provided valuable feedback regarding design and functionality. They have also noted many scenarios throughout their daily lives where such navigation aids would be of use.The thesis document these results, together with ideas and thoughts that have emerged and been tested during the development process. This information contributes to the body of knowledge on dierent means of conveying information about surrounding objects non-visually.

  • 2.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    The Development of a Virtual White Cane Using a Haptic Interface2014Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    For millions of visually impaired individuals worldwide, independent navigation is a major challenge. The white cane can be used to avoid obstacles close-by, but it does not aid in navigation as it is difficult to get a large-scale view of the environment. Technological aids have been developed, notably ones based on GPS, but they have not been widely adopted. This thesis approaches the problem from different perspectives. Firstly, current navigation aids are examined from a user-interaction perspective, leading to some design guidelines on how to present spatial information non-visually. Secondly, a prototype of a new navigation aid (the Virtual White Cane) is proposed, and a field trial with visually impaired participants is described. The idea behind the Virtual White Cane is to utilise the intuitive way humans avoid obstacles by touch, and specifically to leverage the experience white cane users already have. This is accomplished by scanning the environment with a laser rangefinder, and presenting the range information using a haptic interface. The regular white cane is easy to use because it behaves like an extended arm, and so does the Virtual White Cane, albeit working at a much greater distance than the regular cane. A field trial with six experienced white cane users was conducted to assess the feasibility of this kind of interaction. The participants carried out a trial procedure where they traversed a prepared environment using the Virtual White Cane. They did not receive extensive training prior to the trial, the point being that if the Virtual White Cane behaves like a regular one, it should be quick to learn for a white cane user. The results show that spatial information can be feasibly conveyed using a haptic interface. This is demonstrated by the ease with which the field trial participants familiarised themselves with the system, notably adopting a similar usage pattern. In interviews that were conducted following the trial procedures, the participants expressed interest in the idea and thought that being a white cane user helped them use the Virtual White Cane. Despite knowing how to operate the system, the participants found locating objects to be difficult. An extended training period would likely have made this easier, but this problem could also be lessened by understanding what model parameters (such as the length of the virtual cane) should be used.

  • 3.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Fredriksson, Håkan
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Den seende rullstolen2011Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    In its current form, the white cane has been used by visually impaired people for almost a hundred years. It is an intuitive device that helps visually impaired people navigate independently. For people who, in addition to a visual impairment, also have impaired movement, this independence is not as certain. If a wheelchair or a walker is needed, human assistance might be a necessity.MICA (Mobile Internet Connected Assistant) is a computerized wheelchair that has been equipped with a laser rangefinder that can measure the distance to obstacles in the environment. This information has been used to make the wheelhair able to drive on its own, avoiding obstacles, so that users unable to drive a wheelchair themselves are able to use it.The latest addition to MICA - a virtual white cane - allows visually impaired wheelchair users to virtually touch obstacles in their environment, and thus navigate in a similar way to those using a regular white cane. This is accomplished by generating a simplified 3D model based on the data acquired from the laser rangefinder, and sending this data to a haptic device, allowing users to feel the 3D model.The virtual white cane is still in an early development stage. The first test drive of MICA with the virtual white cane (together known as "The Sighted Wheelchair") was performed on 2011-05-10. A short video called "The Sighted Wheelchair" can be found on YouTube.Future work will focus on developing the software that communicates with the laser rangefinder and the haptic device to improve the user experience. Efforts will also be made to overcome the limitations of the laser rangefinder, improving the 3D model.

  • 4.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Fredriksson, Håkan
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Obstacle Avoidance Using Haptics and a Laser Rangefinder2013In: 2013 IEEE Workshop on Advanced Robotics and its Social Impacts: Tokya, Japan, 7-9 Nov 2013, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Communications Society, 2013, p. 76-81Conference paper (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    In its current form, the white cane has been used by visually impaired people for almost a century. It is one of the most basic yet useful navigation aids, mainly because of its simplicity and intuitive usage. For people who have a motion impairment in addition to a visual one, requiring a wheelchair or a walker, the white cane is impractical, leading to human assistance being a necessity. This paper presents the prototype of a virtual white cane using a laser rangefinder to scan the environment and a haptic interface to present this information to the user. Using the virtual white cane, the user is able to "poke" at obstacles several meters ahead and without physical contact with the obstacle. By using a haptic interface, the interaction is very similar to how a regular white cane is used. This paper also presents the results from an initial field trial conducted with six people with a visual impairment.

  • 5.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Presentation of Spatial Information in Navigation Aids for the Visually Impaired2015In: Journal of Assistive Technologies, ISSN 1754-9450, E-ISSN 2042-8723, Vol. 9, no 3, p. 174-181Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Purpose: The purpose of this article is to present some guidelines on how different means of information presentation can be used when conveying spatial information non-visually. The aim is to further the understanding of the qualities navigation aids for visually impaired individuals should possess.Design/methodology/approach: A background in non-visual spatial perception is provided, and existing commercial and non-commercial navigation aids are examined from a user interaction perspective, based on how individuals with a visual impairment perceive and understand space.Findings: The discussions on non-visual spatial perception and navigation aids lead to some user interaction design suggestions. Originality/value: This paper examines navigation aids from the perspective of non-visual spatial perception. The presented design suggestions can serve as basic guidelines for the design of such solutions.

  • 6.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Prellwitz, Maria
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Röding, Jenny
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Nyberg, Lars
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    An Initial Field Trial of a Haptic Navigation System for Persons with a Visual Impairment2015In: Journal of Assistive Technologies, ISSN 1754-9450, E-ISSN 2042-8723, Vol. 9, no 4, p. 199-206Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to describe conceptions of feasibility of a haptic navigation system for persons with a visual impairment (VI). Design/methodology/approach– Six persons with a VI who were white cane users were tasked with traversing a predetermined route in a corridor environment using the haptic navigation system. To see whether white cane experience translated to using the system, the participants received no prior training. The procedures were video-recorded, and the participants were interviewed about their conceptions of using the system. The interviews were analyzed using content analysis, where inductively generated codes that emerged from the data were clustered together and formulated into categories. Findings– The participants quickly figured out how to use the system, and soon adopted their own usage technique. Despite this, locating objects was difficult. The interviews highlighted the desire to be able to feel at a distance, with several scenarios presented to illustrate current problems. The participants noted that their previous white cane experience helped, but that it nevertheless would take a lot of practice to master using this system. The potential for the device to increase security in unfamiliar environments was mentioned. Practical problems with the prototype were also discussed, notably the lack of auditory feedback. Originality/value– One novel aspect of this field trial is the way it was carried out. Prior training was intentionally not provided, which means that the findings reflect immediate user experiences. The findings confirm the value of being able to perceive things beyond the range of the white cane; at the same time, the participants expressed concerns about that ability. Another key feature is that the prototype should be seen as a navigation aid rather than an obstacle avoidance device, despite the interaction similarities with the white cane. As such, the intent is not to replace the white cane as a primary means of detecting obstacles.

  • 7.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Prellwitz, Maria
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Röding, Jenny
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Nyberg, Lars
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Virtuell vit käpp för den seende rullstolen2013Conference paper (Other academic)
  • 8.
    Ahlmark, Daniel Innala
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    van Deventer, Jan
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Hand-held navigation aid for visually impaired using haptic feedback2014Conference paper (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    The white cane is used by many visually impaired individuals as the primary aid for avoiding obstacles. In this it is unparalleled, but it cannot provide a large-scale view of the surroundings the way vision does. This makes navigating independently a challenge for the visually impaired. We are developing the Virtual White Cane (VWC), a device that uses sensors and haptic technologies to complement the limited view of the cane. Sensors makes it possible to probe obstacles far beyond the range of the white cane, and haptic feedback is familiar to users of the regular cane. The purpose of this device is to act as a complement to the standard cane, providing information about the surroundings that are beyond the cane's reach. This kind of extended view not only helps in anticipating obstacles, but also to navigate. The presentation will focus on the hardware of the currently developed prototype, in addition to some initial user experiences.

  • 9.
    Hyyppä, Kalevi
    et al.
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Embedded Internet Systems Lab.
    Fredriksson, Håkan
    Innala Ahlmark, Daniel
    Nyberg, Lars
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Prellwitz, Maria
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Röding, Jenny
    Luleå University of Technology, Department of Health Sciences, Health and Rehab.
    Projekt: Seende rullstol2012Other (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
    Abstract [sv]

    Projektet syftar till att göra det möjligt för personer med funktionsnedsättning, som inte själva har full förmåga att styra en rullstol, att ändå nyttja den. Sensorer på rullstolen upptäcker automatiskt hinder i omgivningen och ger därmed den rörelsehindrade hjälp med styrningen.En virtuell blindkäpp som består av en haptisk robotarm kopplad till en laser som mäter avstånd till föremål i omgivningen har även tagits fram. Utifrån informationen skapas en 3D-bild som brukaren av den virtuella blindkäppen kan känna på med robotarmen.Fortsatt forskning kommer att fokusera på den virtuella vita käppen som kommer att ha en mycket längre räckvidd än en vanlig vit käpp. Vi avser att göra den handhållen så att rullstolen inte behövs som bärare av laserskanner och haptisk robot. En mycket viktig del i vår forskning är att åstadkomma en bra användarupplevelse. Synskadade, som har stor erfarenhet av den vanlig vita käppen, skall snabbt lära sig att använda den virtuella vita käppen.

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