January 18, 2019

What has 44 legs, 22 iPhones and 16 cameras?

Soccer player no-vision headgear flashing two thumbs upWhat has 44 legs, 22 iPhones and 16 cameras? A no-vision soccer match. The Pepsi Refresh Project teamed up with Åkestam Holst and Society 46 to create a system using sound and camera technology to allow players to navigate the field and each other, as well as locate the ball and the goal. Using the same Tracab tracking system that was used during the World Cup, information from 16 cameras is converted into a surround-sound landscape and sent to iPhones integrated into headgear on each player. The test match consisted of one team of sighted pro soccer players and one team of visually-impaired amateurs. Similar to beep baseball, every player wore occluders.

This video demonstrates the sounds the players used to navigate. The first sound, a warble, indicates the boundary line. The second sound, something quite like the Jaws theme, indicates proximity to an opposing player. A chiming sound is the ball. A whacking noise, like a drumstick on a rim, is the goal. The sounds increase in intensity and frequency as a player nears each specific item or another player.

There are five videos available at The Sound of Football, though unfortunately, none of them have video description. The first one, The Sound of Football Story, begins with an interview with one of the visually-impaired team members, 23-year-old Daniel Göransson. He speaks in Swedish and subtitles are shown on the screen. The subtitles read, “I lost most of my sight about 4-5 years ago. Before that I played a lot of football, and did pretty much everything that everyone else does. But recently I have not done much sports at all.”  White letters on a black screen read, “We wanted to refresh blind football and help Daniel play again.” Ellen Sundh, Creative Technologist from Society 46, talks about the concept and how it came about while a montage shows Daniel and other players getting fitted with gear, computer screens with many lines of code, a technician setting up cameras, Daniel dribbling a soccer ball back and forth between his feet, and the sighted players passing a ball back forth amongst themselves. White letters on a black screen proclaim “Match Day.” Another short montage shows more camera preparation, connections being checked, players being outfitted and then finally, a player in a red jersey is given a final check and gives the camera a big smile and two thumbs up. A graphic shows a three-dimensional representation of how the system is supposed to work and then the teams are coming out onto the field.

The teams line up for the anthem and then take their places. Momentarily, red targets are shown under each player’s feet. All the players wear headsets with vision occluders and headphones. The pro team wears red, the amateurs wear blue. The whistle is blown and we have kick off.  A redshirt searches for the ball and Daniel gets it and takes a shot, which is fielded. The red team shoots and misses. Daniel has the ball again and there is some physical contact as his team mates run interference. Daniel shoots and again the ball is fielded. The goalie pitches the ball back into play, Daniel and another blue player collide. Red team takes a shot and scores! The red team huddle up and bounce with joy. Now the blue team takes back control, moving the ball back down the field. Daniel takes a shot and it is fielded. He takes another shot, it bounces off the side of the goal, comes down right in the middle and Daniel comes in with a beautiful knee-sliding, leg-sweeping shot and powers the ball in past the keeper. GOOOOAAAALLL!!! A slow motion replay shows Daniel’s goal again.

The match ends in a one to one tie and a nice photo of both teams posed with the ref. Daniel is in front, holding up an iPhone. Daniel is interviewed again and he says, “With these sounds, it felt a bit like science fiction, actually.”

Per Fahlström, former professional goalkeeper, says, “It was fun, but very hard being a goalie without seeing. You simply have to trust other senses. Something one is not used to–listening.”

Daniel is shown reenacting his goal and he says, “It was fun-bloody-tastic! I will remember this for a long time. That’s for sure.”

The Pepsi Refresh Project is responsible for the funding of Sound of Football. In a quote from their follow up site, they make this claim: “In the future, we want to create new aides that enable visually impaired people to “see” with sound. We have thought about skiing, athletics or creating soundscapes in public places.”

Ellen Sundh of Society 46 said, “I think in the future this technology can be used in other arenas than in sports arenas, as people who can’t see can actually get information about the environment around them.”

AccessWorld Delivered to Your iPhone

The American Foundation for the Blind has announced that you can now download the AccessWorld app on your iPhone.

And it’s free!

According to AFBBlog, “it’s like having 10 years’ worth of AccessWorld at your fingertips! The app also allows you to locate the contact information for any member of the AccessWorld team, should you have any questions or comments.”

Optimized for VoiceOver and other Accessibility features, the app is designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Ricky Kirkendall, AFB Tech intern from Marshall University, worked in conjunction with his mobile development company, FloCo Apps LLC, to create the AccessWorld app

The AFB Tech staff  encourages you to download the AccessWorld app and to check for updates as they make improvements and add features and they look forward to hearing your feedback on the latest AFB projects.

Source: AFB

Portable OCR: Will the iPhone 5 Save the day?

iPhone screen with large numeral 5 and Apple logoThe KNFB reader, developed by the National Federation of the Blind and Kurzweil Technologies, Inc., is the first truly portable OCR device. It can easily snap a picture of a page of text and read it aloud. The KNFB reader runs on a Nokia N86 Symbian-based phone and, when combined with a screen reader, provides a complete package for portable OCR and communication applications. It can be used to read just about anything: a utility bill, magazine article, library book, and even labels at the grocery store.

So, the KNFB reader is very portable, the character recognition is excellent, and it can also be used as a cell phone, what could be wrong with that? Not much really, except that the whole package sells for about $1800, including the KNFB software, n86 phone, and screen reader. The other catch is that many blind and visually impaired people have moved on from Nokia because of the lack of built-in accessibility in favor of the Apple iPhone, which includes a screen reader at no extra charge.

The iPhone also makes sense given the uncertain future of the Symbian platform. Nokia has laid off nearly all of their Symbian development team and contracted with Microsoft to ship Windows Mobile 7 on their products. While Windows Mobile 6 was very accessible, in a giant step backward, Windows Mobile 7 does not provide for accessibility. The choice for an accessible mobile platform for communication and applications such as OCR comes down to companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, and Google Android, who provide little or no built-in accessibility, or Apple, which includes accessibility in every product as a matter of company policy.

What about the KNFB Reader? It is still the best and most accurate OCR application available for blind and visually impaired users. It is much better than even the best OCR applications currently running on the iPhone. Surprisingly, Kurzweil Technology has said they have no plans to release a version for the iPhone.

There are, however, several good OCR applications available for the iPhone today. The best of these is probably Prizmo which sells for $10 in the iTunes store. Aroga Technologies has posted an excellent review that compares Prizmo with the KNFB Reader. While Prizmo performs well, it does not stand up to the KNFB Reader, which reads a selection of documents with little or no errors. The reviewer believes that the problem is not the application but rather the limited resolution of the current generation of iPhones and that a higher resolution camera on the upcoming iPhone 5 could
provide a proper solution for a low cost portable OCR reader.