2006 Conference General Sessions






Takafumi Ienaga
Institute of Systems & Information Technologies/KYUSHU Street Address:
Fukuoka SRP Center building 7F, 2𥹒2, Momochihama, Sawara梜u
Fukuoka 814-0001 Japan
Day Phone: +81-92-852-3460
Fax: +81928523465
Email: ienaga@isit.or.jp

In general, it is difficult for the visually impaired to go to an unfamiliar place on their own. Some kinds of travel aid systems for them have been developed so far (e.g. H. Mori, & S. Kotani (1998)). In many cases under these systems, however, extra infrastructure is needed to be built, special equipment to be installed or the users to be trained in a particular way. To solve this problems, we have studied a travel aid system which enables the visually impaired to go to even an unfamiliar place with only the training of a walk with a guide do9 or white cane. The users of this system are provided an auditory map and a navigation service provided by a supporter placed in a remote site. Here, in this study, the auditory map means the instructions that how to get to the destination and how to get the orientation we verified that the visually impaired was able to get to an unfamiliar destination with the system we propose.

Proposing System
The travel aid system for the visually impaired we propose consists of a system provides an auditory map and a tele-support system with a video cellular phone. First, the user gets the auditory map and records it into an IC recorder or other devices. Next, the user repeatedly listens to the recorded information to roughly grasp the route to the destination. Third, he or she walks the route by following the instruction recorded in the auditory map. Through this procedure, the visually impaired are able to get to even an unfamiliar place without any special device or training. However, the auditory map does not address the problems arose when the users lose their way or direction and they are not able to continue to walk as instructed. In those cases, the users may request the navi9ation to a remote supporter. A remote supporter identifies the user抯 position from transmitted images of the video cellular phone and position information obtained by GPS and etc. And then, the supporter navigates the user to the right point, with this navi9ation provided by a remote supporter, the users are able to go back to the right point even if they lose their way or direction and eventually gets to the final destination.

In the experiment, the subjects carried two devices. One was an IC recorder to listen to the recorded instruction in the auditory map and another was a video cellular phone to be navigated by a remote supporter. In this experiment, the position information of the subject was sent to the remote supporter by an assistant of the experimenter. The route was an about 20-minute walk distance for the sighted, and the subjects required 8 minutes and 20 seconds to listen to all the recorded instructions in the auditory map. No subjects had walked the same route before. Twelve subjects participated in the experiment, and three of whom were completely blind. All subjects were able to walk by themselves with a guide dog or a white cane. In the experiment, one subject used a guide dog and the rest of them used white canes. At first, they listened to the recorded instruction to roughly grasp the route as a whole, and next they walked the route with listening to it again. The subjects supposed to use the negation service provided by a remote supporter when they lose their ways or direction and recognized that they were not able to continue to travel with only the auditory map, or the experimenter suggested that the subject to be navigated by a remote supporter in case that the subject largely deviated from the given route. When the subject reached the destination or 45 minutes passed after the start, the experiment finished.

As the result of the experiment, one of the twelve subjects reached the destination with only the auditory map within the given time, and eight did by using the both of the auditory map and the navigation service, while three were not able to get to the destination within the given time. The mean time for those who arrived at the goal was 34 minutes and 21 seconds, which was an about 26-minute walk if the recorded guidance time, 8 minutes 20 seconds, was excluded. It was almost the same as the time for the sighted. Those who reached the goal within a given time used navigation services provided by a remote supporter 1.6 times on average, while those who did not 2.3 times. In the questionnaire after the experiment, eleven subjects gave the positive responses to use this travel aid system. In this experiment, we designed the complicated route with many narrow paths where it was hard to find intersections. If the route was designed with bigger 慡treets, the success rate to reach the destination was expected to be hi9her than the result of this experiment. As mentioned above, in this study, we verified that our travel aid system was effective to assist the visually impaired to walk by themselves.

Conclusion and Future Works
In this study, we proved that it was possible for the visually disabled to reach an unknown destination with the travel aid system which consisted of the auditory map and the navigation service provided by a remote supporter with the video cellular phone. In the future woks, we will construct a personal auditory map in accordance with individual抯 characteristics.

A part of this research was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of
Science, Grant梚n-Aid for scientific Research (B(2)-16300192).

H. Mori, S. Kotani, Robotic travel aid for the blind: HARuNOBU-6: in Proc. of Second
European conference on Disability, virtual Reality and Assistive Technology, p.p.
193-202, (1998).

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