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Tactile 3D maps could help blind people navigate


Scientific American is reporting that a team of researchers at the Aristotle University of Thessaloníki in Greece have created a system that can convert video into tactile, three dimensional maps designed to help blind people navigate. So called "haptic maps" have apparently been developed before, but the new system works with standard video camera equipment. These maps are created by using software that maps a series of points to a virtual 3D space: a special glove and wand then apply forces to the fingers to simulate these virtual space points. The system can also simulate 3D street maps where the user can "run a finger or wand down the grooved roads of the virtual map" and have street names spoken to them using speech synthesis. This isn't the end of the problem however, as visually impaired people will still need a guide dog or cane to avoid smaller obstacles like potholes. There's also a great deal of potential here for fully sighted people: Dan Jacobson, co-chair of the International Cartographic Association's commission mentions that it could convey information about things that are not in view, and with a growing minority of sighted people trusting their gadgets more than their eyes, we'd tend to agree.

[Via Primidi, Image credit]

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