[nfbwatlk] New Braille Technology Helps Visually Impaired'See'Emotions (How ridiculous is this!)

Mary Ellen gabias at telus.net
Fri Apr 30 13:55:32 CDT 2010


This kind of research makes me want to spit!
If understanding emotions is so difficult without the aid of eyesight, why
are there millions and millions of meaningful telephone conversations every
day?
I believe this sort of thing is particularly harmful to parents who wonder
how their blind children will interact socially. If some of these people
have their way, the blind will become bionic people with computers and other
machines poking out of every pocket and attached to every body part.
I believe some sighted people don't know what to do at first if they don't
make eye contact, but *PLEASE* let's not get carried away!
Mary Ellen


New Braille Technology Helps Visually Impaired 'See' Emotions

ScienceDaily, Apr. 28, 2010 

Without vision it's impossible to interpret facial expressions, or so it's
believed. Not any more. 

Shafiq ur Réhman, Umeå University, presents a new technology in his doctoral
thesis -- a Braille code of emotions. "It gives new opportunities for social
interactions for the visually impaired," he says.

Lacking the sense of vision can be very limiting in a person's daily life.
The most obvious limitation is probably the difficulty of navigation, but
small details in everyday life, which seeing people take for granted, are
also missed. One of those things is the ability to see a person during a
conversation. Facial expressions provide emotional information and are
important in communication. A smile shows pleasure, amusement, relief, etc.
Missing information from facial expressions create barriers to social
interactions.

"Blind persons compensate for missing information with other senses such as
sound. But it is difficult to understand complex emotions with voice alone,"
says Shafiq ur Réhman.

His thesis addresses a challenging problem: how to let visually impaired
"see" others' emotions. To make this possible the research group has
developed a new technology based on an ordinary web camera, hardware as
small as a coin, and a tactile display. This enables the visually impaired
to directly interpret human emotions.

"Visual information is transferred from the camera into advanced vibrating
patterns displayed on the skin. The vibrators are sequentially activated to
provide dynamic information about what kind of emotion a person is
expressing and the intensity of the emotion," he explains.

The first step for a user is to learn the patterns of different facial
expressions by using displaying the emotions in front of a camera that
translates the emotions into vibrational patterns. In this learning phase
the visually impaired person have a tactile display mounted on the back of a
chair. When interacting with other people a sling on the forearm can be used
instead.

The main research focus has been to characterise different emotions and to
find a way to present them by means of advanced biomedical engineering and
computer vision technologies. The project was founded by the Swedish
Research Council.

The research group's spin-off company Videoakt AB has been granted a patent
for the technology, which soon will be available as a product on the open
market. Tactile feedback is also interesting in other areas as a future
communication tool, for seeing people as well.

"We have successfully demonstrated how the technology can be implemented on
mobile phones for tactile rendering of live football games and human emotion
information through vibrations. This is an interesting way to enhance the
experience of mobile users," explains Shafiq ur Réhman.





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