Friday, February 17, 2006

The brain again - The bits I missed out...

Ok this is a post to finish off what the unit I described does and to bring to the world all the proposed features and uses of our device, some of this post will touch and cover stuff we have already said, other bits will cover new ground.

As can be seen by the posts, our device is intended to be a electronic guide for the blind, the device is designed to work in tandem with current blind motion helper devices (guide dogs and walking canes) and to replace current human guidance to/from places and around places (such as supermarkets).

In the outside world (outside of buildings) the device will guide people to locations using GPS such as already mentioned GPS services, this will be a precise as previously mentioned. A later post with the smart watch will explain how the system gets its route destination information. For now all I need to say is the system will guide the user to that location and inform them when they are there.

Other features the system will have in the outside world will be the ability for the device to interact with traffic lights. Currently some UK traffic light controlled pedestrian crossings (called Puffin crossings) include a device on the bottom of the user input/output unit which turns when the pedestrians can cross and even though this is a good feature it has several limitations:

  • Firstly, its distribution, only recently have Puffin crossings been introduced and there is no wide scale upgrade plans nor requirements to do so for current pedestrian systems and as such almost none of these traffic lights are available, for example, almost the only one you will find in the vicinity of the university is at the Selly Oak station car park crossing.
  • Second, these devices can only work with one such user at a time, this may not cause many issues but this can cause them still
  • This system is very vunerable to vandalism, especially as more people discover the new features of these sorts of pedestrian crossings
With our a device, a unit could be placed at the top of the traffic light (or each side of the road) such that anyone within a 2-3 metre square area of the device will be informed by the traffic light that the button has been pressed and that they should wait. This system could then monitor all Via devices that stay within its area whilst waiting for the system to go green (this gets rid of the issue of people walking past the lights) and inform them once the man goes green at which point it can monitor their progress over the road in pretty much the same way the current Puffin system does except using the Via device instead of its own infrared system.

In the internal world (indoors) the system will guide users around using a local gps system inside the building. The discussion of the smart watch will focus on how this works and its features. What I am going to talk about here is a feature we have left out for a while. In emergencies in these buildings (when the fire alarm starts), using the internal GPS the store system and Via can guide users to safety (safety being the their nearest fire exit).

Though the brain is a very important part of the product, it will not be the products sole component, the other component necessary will be blogged about in detail very soon but here I will discuss them briefly:

  • Smart Watch - This will communicate with the brain using Bluetooth or something similar and will inform the brain of the users input. On its back (pressed against the users skin) will be a system that helps direct the user as an alternative to being narrated to.
  • Headset - This will be designed to allow users to hear the outside world whilst receiving information from the brain, again this will be based on Bluetooth or something similar. Unlike the brain and Smart Watch, the headset will not be a compulsory unit because as some blind users are also partially deaf, for those with an induction loop system they can set their loop to the T position and the Via brain will communicate with them with a headset.
More posts on these components will follow in the next few days


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