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Patricia Grant, Meesa Maeng, Tiffany Arango, Janet P Szlyk, Rich Hogle, Derald Woods, William H Seiple; Sign Location by Profoundly Blind Persons Using a BrainPort Vision Pro Mobile App. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(9):3889.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Independent travel is an important goal sought by individuals who are blind. Identifying signage can be time-consuming, difficult, and often requires a human guide or braille literacy. The BrainPort® Vision Pro enables perception of visual information using the tongue as a substitute for the eye and has been shown to enhance independent travel. The SignFinder app runs on a mobile device and connects to the BrainPort Vision Pro to detect standard signs in real-time. Using the BrainPort camera as an input source, the mobile device alerts the user via haptic feedback once a sign of interest is located. The purpose of this study was to evaluate sign location and navigation skills of profoundly blind participants using SignFinder.
Seventeen participants blinded by traumatic injury (mean age = 42 ±12 years) were recruited from an ongoing clinical trial evaluating long-term use of the BrainPort Vision Pro. After 6 months of participation in the clinical trial, participants received mobile devices (LG Android tablets) equipped with SignFinder. Following app training, participants were instructed to practice with the app independently for 6 months in preferred public spaces. Participants were assessed at baseline (without the use of the BrainPort or SignFinder app) and 3 and 6 months following app training (using the BrainPort combined with SignFinder) on sign location and navigation to signs from a distance of 10 feet.
At baseline, none of the participants could locate restroom signs. After 3 months of app use, 82% of participants could successfully locate and navigate to a restroom sign and 29% of participants could perform the same task with an exit sign. After 6 months of app use, 88% of participants could locate and navigate to a restroom sign and 47% could locate and navigate to an exit sign.
These results demonstrate the practicality of SignFinder to locate signs of importance to daily life but typically inaccessible to persons who are blind. A combination of feedback from the app and BrainPort provides users with information to enhance independent mobility. Difficulty in detecting exit signs may be due to variations in sign illumination levels or lighting conditions. Future work includes improving sign algorithms to minimize the occurrence of missed target signs. Further, the app will be expanded to incorporate additional signs, such as those of different countries and languages.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29 - May 3, 2018.
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