E-Guide: New Technology Eases the Visually Impaired On the Go中文版
(August 6, 2013 - Hong Kong) Center for E-Commerce Infrastructure Development (CECID), under the auspices of Department of Computer Science, University of Hong Kong, has successfully developed a mobile system for the visually impaired. This system, namely E-Guide, allows visually impaired users obtain useful information through voice messages when they are on the go, such as information about the surroundings, tips about their paths towards destinations, and other valuable information on their smartphones.
The E-Guide research project was sponsored by the Innovation and Technology Commission of Hong Kong Government in 2011. The R&D project gets full support from the Labour and Welfare Bureau, the Link and other organizations. The development process was carried out with close collaboration of visually impaired groups. The research team is grateful for their assistance and participation in the field tests.
E-Guide has three main functions. First, audible tips. For example, when the visually impaired go shopping with the handheld E-Guide device, he can get verbal tips about the shop's name nearby. When he passes by the washrooms, stairs, or other facilities, he could also receive relevant instructions or warnings.
Second, audible path guidance. E-Guide can provide path guidance in the indoor environment. For example, in a shopping mall, visually impaired users can input their destination in the system, such as a restaurant, toilets, or exits. Then as they move along in the mall, E-Guide will hint the right direction that leads to the set destination at some specific intersection areas. The hint will be delivered verbally using their familiar “clock position” method. This way, the visually impaired will be able to proceed step by step to their destination.
Third, audible positioning and other huge functionalities on smartphones. E-Guide can be set to connect to smartphones. With that, the visually impaired could obtain their present location using GPS in one simple click. In addition, E-Guide allows the visually impaired to make telephone calls, check email, browse the news and the Internet, and enjoy other useful functions on their smartphones. Thanks should go to the physical keypad on E-Guide, so that visually impaired people can manipulate smartphones more easily.
The visually impaired community indicates that this technology can complement the shortcomings of the existing tactile guide paths and Braille map. It let them have information of store locations, and truly help them to enjoy shopping alone. They expect this system can be installed more extensively. Hong Kong Federation of the Blind states that this technology could be applied widely with huge potential, such as installing on buses, letting the visually impaired be aware of buses arriving; or installed in exhibition hall, letting the visually impaired appreciate exhibition items like normal people.
We have successfully performed technical tests on E-Guide at many places, including a shopping mall of the Link, Hong Kong Arts Centre and others. We expect this technology could have bigger uses in the society. We are currently working with some non-profit organizations to explore possibilities to operate this system in the form of a social enterprise. We have already launched training programs with them and strive for pushing more adoption of the system in the community. New World First Bus, Citybus and Ebenezer School, have agreed to participate in our second stage of testing. Visually impaired users could receive information about the bus routes at nearby stops. When the bus is approaching, E-Guide can also issue arrival prompt. We hope that the whole society, including the Government, business sector and the user community, can join force to embrace the use of technology to help the under-privileged groups, which a barrier-free society can be built, and the visually impaired could live more independently and enjoy a higher quality of life.
About CECID (www.cecid.hku.hk)
Center for E-Commerce Infrastructure Development (CECID), under the auspices of Department of Computer Science, University of Hong Kong, was established in 2002. The research team in CECID is wholly devoted to applied research projects. CECID takes on the mission to transfer the research result and experience, technology and knowledge to the community. We believe this would benefit different groups in society, including under-privileged groups, and make them more competitive.