Project description

Project description

This project titled “Integrated augmented reality research for socially impaired (blind and partially sighted)” has received funding from European Regional Development Fund (project No 01.2.2-LMT-K-718-01-0060) under grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

Start/End date: 2018 01 10/2021 12 30

The main project goal – R&D of the integrated technological and organizational innovations for the blind and partially sighted people to increase their mobility, working capacity and social integration.

The main project task – in the framework of smart specialization, to implement the main project goal, using advanced augmented reality and computational intelligence methods, mechatronics and electronics, social networking and communication innovations designed for the worldwide blind and partially sighted people community.

The main task is subdivided into concrete activities that address the specific research tasks in the detailed project implementation plan

  1. Research [36 months]
    • Analysis of the potential market, competitive environment and demand for the product. Findings will be summarised in a feasibility study of the functional prototype (FTS).
    • Detailed technical design of the functional prototype.
    • Patent claim and proof of concept research for the specialized social networking and mobile communication services.
  2. Experimental development [12 months]
    • Functional prototype (FTS device) development and field-testing.

It has to be emphasized that this project is highly multidisciplinary as it is related not only with social and technological sciences, but also with physics, informatics, communication and applied medicine area.

Sight is the main sensory function, which brings around 80% of information about surrounding world. Obviously, disruption of this function not only restricts person’s ability to work, but also mobility and social activity in general. Consequently, it determines a number of related social care and health problems. According to the World Health Organization, around 285 million people across the world are visually impaired. Around 39 million people among them are blind and because of the social disconnect, around 90% experience major decrease in quality of life. Today there are no effective means to recover vision. However, several technologies, such as applications of the navigational Global Positioning System (GPS) with sound user interface, mobile apps and Google maps (or OpenStreetMap, etc.) have the potential for assisting blind individuals in their daily life. Main drawbacks of such solutions are: a) low accuracy of the position (for commercial GPS 95% confidence level provides 7.8 meters accuracy), b) sound interfaces, used to describe visual information, are slow and inaccurate.

To address the shortcomings of the existing solutions, this project aims to develop a prototype of a novel technological aid for visually impaired individuals - FTS.  It is a specifically designed device aimed to analyse and transform close to real-time visual data stream. Using intuitive augmented reality approach and unique recognition and coding methodic (computational intelligence methods), visual information is transformed into oscillations of various frequencies, rhythms and intensities, that represent approximate real picture. Hence, this tactile device is designed to work as a supplementary tool for substitution of the visual sensory function. For commercialization or licensing of the innovative technology a US patent is foreseen. 

Initial analysis of currently available alternative solutions (e.g. aforementioned navigational GPS, leading animals, sensitive sticks, Braille scripts, etc.) showed that this project offers conceptually new technological approach and innovative social application perspectives. That is, FTS device can serve as a mean for the social communication and networking services designed for the blind and partially sighted people. For instance, this project is designated to investigate how such people could exchange among themselves tactile images, texts or even movies, using FTS device with smart phones, apps and specially designed social media and networking services.

In order to expand FTS device applicability and enhance integrated solutions, this project also aims to investigate technical possibilities to organize nearly real-time specialized communication mobile service (a call center), dealing with complex on-site visual situations when other means fail to help. For instance, road signs, various markings, jottings and other objects with informational or complex content, which can only be understood with normal eyesight.