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A New, More Economical Sonification Prototype to Assist the Blind

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Doctoral student Pablo Revuelta Sanz demonstrates the sound-based assistive technology.

A new sound-based assistive technology system for the visually impaired promises to be more affordable and practical to use than currently available systems.

Credit: Carlos III University of Madrid

Carlos III University of Madrid doctoral student Pablo Revuelta Sanz has developed a sound-based assistive technology system designed to improve the autonomy of people with visual impairments.

Researchers say the technology promises to be more affordable and practical to use than current commercial systems.

The sound guide is designed to complement the classic cane or guide dog. The system uses a stereo vision processor that measures the difference of images captured by two cameras that are placed slightly apart and calculates the distance to each point in the scene. The information is transmitted to the user by means of a sound code that provides the position and distance to different obstacles. The synthesizer emits up to eight different tones to represent height, and sounds are laterally located, which means something on the left will sound louder on that side and vice versa.

The prototype consists of glasses with two micro-cameras, a plate with a battery, a small audio stereo amplifier, and headphones with bond conduction transmission. Users can choose "six profiles, ranging from one that is very simple, with a sound alarm that only works when one is going to crash into an obstacle, to others that describe the scene with 64 simultaneous sounds," Revuelta says.

From Carlos III University of Madrid (Spain)
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