In the Eye Phone project we introduced the idea of sighted assistance for visually impaired using video telephony. Now, ten years later, we want to find out whether mobile video telephony can help us to realize the eye phone.
Story by: Magne Lunde - 29.05.2012
The idea of video telephony as an aid for visually impaired people was first introduced in the Eye phone project ten years ago. It seems to be a contradiction in terms, video telephony uses a sense which visually impaired do not have. Yet it is precisely the capacity of video telephony to provide a detailed picture of the help required which makes it such a powerful tool. Using video telephony the sighted helper sees for the visually impaired.
During these last ten years there has been a rapid technological development in mobile phone technology and we want to investigate the new opportunities that are opening up for mobile video telephony as a channel for a seeing eye. We have resumed the work on video telephony in our new pilot project See, the main aim in this project is to find out more about how a mobile video telephony solution might make it possible for sighted to see for visually impaired.
The pilot project is supported by IT Funk (ICT for the disabled) and will continue throughout 2012. In addition to MediaLT who are leading the work, the following groups participating: Synshemmede Akademikere – SAF (visually impaired academics), The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted -NABP , Finnmark University College and the Norwegian Post and Telecommunications Authority.
In addition to technological progress, there are other good reasons to resume this work. Research questions relating to simple, good user interfaces have not been sufficiently analyzed and we believe this to be one of the main reasons why visually impaired seldom use video telephony. Moreover, the challenges of compatibility between different mobiles has not been adequately tested or examined. Considerable time and resources have already been invested in acquiring knowledge about the use of video telephony for the visually impaired an in our opinion it is important to continue this work to see how this knowledge can be applied in practice.
As part of the project 12 focus interviews will be conducted with severely visually impaired. The purpose of these interviews is to understand how severely visually impaired people today envisage using video telephony, and how a possible future service might be organized. Following these interviews tests will be carried out to find out whether user requirements for this service can be implemented using standard cell phones.
The project will also identify possible problem areas in relation to the use of video telephony (cold weather, noise, etc.). The focus interviews and the identified problem areas will give us a picture of the research and development tasks that must be solved if video telephony is to be an interesting tool for severely visually impaired. Consideration of these research and development tasks will determine whether to continue this work in a main project.