New device to provide access to graphical information

Wednesday, 6 August 2014 11:46am

Curtin University has developed a new device aimed at enabling people with vision impairments to read complex printed information such as graphics, graphs, bills and bank statements.

According to Curtin’s Senior Lecturer Dr Iain Murray and PhD student Azadeh Nazemi of Curtin’s Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering, the new device uses a number of technologies, such as pattern recognition and machine learning, to identify images, graphs, maths or text on a page, then convert that information to audio format with navigation markup.

The creators believe that the device—about the size of a small book and with controls similar to a cassette recorder—will help open up new career paths and educational opportunities for people with vision impairments through removing barriers to accessing information in graphical and statistical formats.

“People who are blind are often blocked from certain career paths and educational opportunities where graphs or graphics play a strong role,” Dr Murray said in a statement about the new device.

“We hope this device will open up new opportunities for people with vision impairment— it’s a matter of providing more independence, and not having to rely on sighted assistance to be able to read graphical and mathematical material.”

The device is not yet commercially available, but its creators are actively searching for philanthropic finance to set up production. Dr Murray said the expected retail price is would be about $100.

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