List of challenges for assistive technology
Challenges presented below are not ordered according to their importance. The list will never be complete. You can find people for whom some of these problems are not problems at all and some whose problems are completely different. Treat this list as a source of inspiration.
Mobility and transportation
Differentiating between a bus and minibus
When you walk with a guide dog you need to differentiate between a bus and a minibus. The latter ones are to small too walk in with a dog. The dog is trained to enter any car on a stop. You learn that the car in front of you is a minibus when you are to enter it. Constant walking from a car to a car may be really frustrating.
Detecting human beings
There are situations when you need to ask, e.g., about the direction or a bus number. If nobody is speaking or making a noise, you don't know if there is anybody to ask. A detector of human beings would solve this problem. Such a detector could be also useful when you want to be sure you are alone.
Bus number recognition
On a bus or tram stop you need to learn what line number has arrived. There are some solutions, but they usually include hardware installed on vehicles. There is a need for a universal solution, which enables the user to recognize the car number without any additional equipment either on a car or on a stop. Prototypical camera applications for number recognition share one limitation - it is very difficult for a blind person to take a picture of a line number displayed on the car.
It is a myth that blind people recognize everyone by their voice. Actually on some occasions you may not recognize a person you know very well. Recognizing people is an important social problem which is rarely talked about. It is difficult to develop social relationships when it takes you a few minutes to find out that a person who is talking to you is the same person you had a very interesting conversation with yesterday, and on many occasions you are not sure. Blind people adapt two strategies: most of them pretend they know with whom they are talking and do not go into a details to avoid errors; some people simply ask.
OrCam device is said to recognize people, but so far it is difficult to say to what degree this recognition works.
A solution for recognizing people should allow a discrete adding people's pictures or voices or other data to user's personal data base. Relabelling the data should be easy and quick. The data should be encrypted and the recognition should be done on a device, i.e. it should not be done in cloud.
Detecting speaker's location
In any area where loud speakers are used to amplify the speaker's speech, locating the speaking person is very difficult and often impossible. As a result a blind individual may be the only person during a public event (conference, church, concert) who is not facing the speaker. A situation in which you don't know where to direct your face is very uncomfortable.
Recognizing if other people are standing or sitting
Imagine you are the only person sitting during a standing ovation... Sounds funny, but actually you need to pay quite a lot of attention to be sure if you should stand up or sit down.
Recognizing LED indicators
Many devices use LED indicators to communicate the status of their functions. Standard light and color detectors designed for recognizing light and the color of solid objects (mainly clothes) respectively are even not able to detect if the LED light is on, because the source of the light is too little.
A useful LED light detector should:
- Recognize if the light is on/off,
- Recognize the color of the light and announce the color changes,
- Recognize if the light is blinking and how frequent the blinking is,
- Allow detecting LED indicators located very close to each other.
There are no liquid level indicators for bottles and other containers. If you want to know how much wine or juice is left in the bottle you need to pour it into another container to measure it. You cannot check the liquid level directly in the bottle.
See also "Left in the bottle" story.