Monday, February 13, 2006

Device prototype specifications

After many discussions we have bargained our way down to what the device should and shouldn't do.

We have a problem with research in that we can't ask a vast target audience. It's fair to say that we have a very small market. The difficult thing is we can't just go out and build a haphazard online questionnaire as we'd need the entire target group to be able and willing to access it on their computers - not such an easy assumption to make with blind people as the target! So any feedback will need to be obtained manually by ourselves.

We're looking at having two different working environments. Both are very similar to each other but with different requirements for features such as accuracy of information.

  1. Outdoor world navigation and location information
  2. Indoor navigation and information eg. in a supermarket or theatre

The outdoors environment is very similar to what is currently available through GPS navigation devices. Its route planning/navigation systems are similar to current car route planners such as TomTom: Relatively low accuracy (metre-resolution) although our target accuracy would be to at least get the user to the right door of a street or outside the desired shop entrance. This would require slightly greater resolution than that currently available, in the range of half-metres.

The new Galileo GPS system currently in testing will provide the desired resolution.

Another use will be for feedback about current statuses of traffic lights at pedestrian crossings. There will be another post about this later.

Indoor environments such as in a supermarket will allow the user to obtain high resolution locational information about their surroundings such as the route to a particular aisle with the desired shopping items, or locating a seat in the theatre. This will be done using a localised GPS system installed inside the buliding due to the much higher accuracy of locational information required (10s of centimetres), which current and near-future space-based GPS systems are unlikely to achieve.

There will be up to three parts of the device depending on the user's needs:

  1. The main processing part, which will have dimensions no larger than (for the sake of something easy to visualise and photograph) Dan's Nokia 2650. The weight is about 100 grammes max. which we feel to be reasonable. More information about its features and photographs of the similar-sized phone will appear in a later post.
  2. The input device, based on a 'smart watch'. The front is a standard blind/partially-sighted user's watch with a button for a speaker to speak the time and a bezel ring around the outside for control of the guidance functions, similar to an iPod control ring, with a small number of further buttons on the 'face' for selection and menu navigation. The back plate contains a ring of pressure actuators for directional guidance. More information, schematic diagrams and 'screenshots' in a later post.
  3. The headset for voice output. This will connect to the main processing device using Bluetooth or similar technology and enable voice feedback on menu prompts from the device. Importantly for a blind user who relies on their hearing much more than a sighted user, hearing of the outside world must not be obstructed by the headset so a device that sits just off the ear and permits external sound to pass through is essential. More designs and information to follow.

NB: This post was made during a meeting with all three of us contributing to its contents


At 13 February, 2006 20:32, Blogger Mark Rowan said...

Post about:

traffic light guidance system
more detail on supermarket guidance
- barcodes etc. system owned by supermarket for competition reasons
- standard communication interface for our device
ipod navigation system
iPod click wheel
designs for watch face and controls
Talking watches 1
Talking watches 2
Talking watches 3
more info on headset designs
Headsets on ebuyer

and anything else we can think of!

Pictures are uploaded to Dan's ftp server for adding to these further posts.


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