[tabi] Re: Blind drivers plot their own course

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 7 Aug 2009 10:35:35 -0400

Hi blackjack,

I agree with your wishlist.

there is an effort on to have all the consumer electronics have an
accessibility option.  I'm not sure where that effort is, but I think
with our aging population, it will start to happen.

One small point I wanted to mention to you was the availability of a gps
which usually works indoors.

the core chipset is probably available in many consumer products; they
usually advertise it as "high-sensitivity".  the one I'm familiar with
is the 16 channel EarthMate lt-40, which on sale can be had for as
little as $35.  It's WAAS enabled (something which gives you much more
precise positioning in north america), and it's high-sensitivity, and
has a cold start time of around 30 seconds.  if you have a gps
navigating system which uses external gps receivers, I'd definitely
upgrade to something like this.

other, less well known companies, seem to offer rechargible bluetooth
versions as well (such as Qstarz).




Chip Orange
Database Administrator
Florida Public Service Commission

(850) 413-6314

 (Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect those of the Florida Public Service Commission.)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
> [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Blackjack
> Sent: Wednesday, August 05, 2009 5:04 AM
> To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [tabi] Re: Blind drivers plot their own course 
> Hi, this is fine and great like to see things like this going 
> on that might
> be of benefit to us maybe in the next 25 to 50 years. Which 
> will be all most
> to late for me! What I would like to see more of right now 
> and I personally
> think would be of much more benefit to us in everyday life is 
> some of these
> examples.  Example: All major appliance being completely accessible,
> Majority of electronics being completely accessible or at the 
> least mostly
> accessible, such as ( TV menus, Radios, House and cell phones being
> completely accessible, Satellite and cable boxes accessible 
> and GPS that is
> completely accessible at a reasonable price and they would 
> work in most
> business buildings). This all would be a start with stuff 
> that would really
> help right now! This is what I would like to see happen in 
> the next say 5
> years. Just my thoughts.
> Thanks,
> Blackjack
> blackjack2@xxxxxxx
> -----Original Message-----
> From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
> [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
> Of Lynn Evans
> Sent: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 8:57 PM
> To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [tabi] Blind drivers plot their own course 
> Blind Drivers Plot Their Own Course
> Va. Tech Prototype Vehicle Lets Visually Impaired Students 
> Take the Wheel
> By Daniel de Vise
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Saturday, August 1, 2009
> A voice rose above the chatter in the University of Maryland parking
> lot: "Blind man driving!"
> Twenty people took turns piloting a car on this muggy Friday 
> morning, the
> first public test of technology that might one day overcome 
> barriers to
> putting the blind behind the wheel.
> The quest to drive has captivated the blind community as it 
> has become more
> integrated into a car-centric society. Some likened Friday's 
> test to a moon
> landing -- a fitting analogy, considering that the prototype 
> vehicle vaguely
> resembled a lunar rover.
> "One day, we'll be on the road with them," said Ishaan 
> Rastogi, 15, a blind
> New Jersey high school student with a Yankees cap pulled over 
> his eyes and
> the first to test the vehicle.
> The event capped a
> <http://www.blindscience.org/ncbys/youth_slam.asp>summer 
> science academy
> organized by the National Federation of the Blind for 200 blind and
> low-vision young people from across the country. The youths 
> had spent the
> week rock climbing, bungee-jumping and launching weather balloons,
> activities tailored to teach that there is no limit to what a 
> blind person
> can do.
> Virginia Tech engineers started work on the vehicle in response to a
> 2004 challenge from the blindness advocacy group to build a 
> vehicle that the
> blind could drive with the same freedom as the sighted.
> "Blind people can do all sorts of things that the public 
> doesn't think we
> can do," said Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the federation. 
> The blind can read ordinary books with a hand-held device 
> that translates
> type to synthetic speech. Adaptive devices permit blind users 
> to interact
> with computers and surf the Internet.
> Driving without sight became a conceivable goal in this 
> decade with the
> development of autonomous, computer-guided vehicles. The 
> Defense Advanced
> Research Projects Agency ran a series of
> <http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.asp>contests to inspire a
> driverless car that could navigate complex terrain. By 2007, 
> vehicles from
> Virginia Tech and several other universities could complete the DARPA
> course.
> But an autonomous vehicle wasn't enough.
> "We want the blind person to be the driver, not to be 
> driven," said Matt
> Lippy, 21, a member of the nine-person design team at
> <http://www.me.vt.edu/romela/RoMeLa/RoMeLa.html>Virginia 
> Tech's Robotics &
> Mechanisms Laboratory.
> The design team first sought to customize Virginia Tech's 
> entry in the 2007
> DARPA contest, a modified Ford Escape that finished third in the
> competition. But the engineers decided it would be easier to 
> start from
> scratch. They purchased an all-terrain vehicle online for 
> $1,300 in fall
> 2008 and began anew.
> They mounted a laser sensor to the front of the vehicle to 
> sweep the terrain
> ahead and return a signal. A powerful computer at the rear of 
> the buggy
> interprets the signal to build a two-dimensional map, showing 
> obstacles in
> the vehicle's path.
> But how to show that map to a person who cannot see?
> Researchers boiled down the data to two crucial factors: direction and
> speed. A computer voice signals the driver through headphones 
> how to steer
> to avoid a collision -- one click to the left, for example; 
> three clicks to
> the right.
> "We call it a back-seat driver," Lippy said.
> The increments correspond to notches cut from the steering 
> wheel. The driver
> turns the wheel and hears an audible "click."
> The computer communicates speed with vibrations fed through a 
> vest worn by
> the driver. Stronger vibrations indicate it is time to stop. 
> Sensors automatically kill the engine if the vehicle gets too 
> close to an
> impediment. For the test drives, engineers rigged the buggy 
> for a top speed
> of 15 mph.
> One by one Friday morning, drivers buzzed around Parking Lot 
> 1D, empty save
> for traffic cones placed at intervals around light poles. 
> There were no mishaps.
> "It's finally a chance to drive," said Angel Reyes, 16, a 
> junior at New
> Brunswick High School in New Jersey, as he climbed from the vehicle.
> "Finally a chance to be more independent in getting where you 
> want to go."
> When the team first tested the buggy in May, three blind 
> drivers completed a
> curved course without hitting a single cone. In fact, the 
> blind drivers --
> who had never driven before -- fared better than the 
> engineers themselves,
> who tried steering the car blindfolded. Lippy thinks that the 
> experienced
> drivers tended to ignore the computer signals and follow their own
> instincts; the blind drivers obeyed the computer to the letter.
> The blind drivers posed questions that had not occurred to 
> the engineers.
> How would they find the vehicle in a parking lot? If they had 
> to jump the
> battery, how could they tell the positive cable from the negative?
> The engineers say their first Blind Driver Challenge vehicle 
> is crude. The
> computer can sense and avoid obstacles but cannot plot a course to a
> destination. The team is working on a more sophisticated interface to
> deliver signals to drivers. Their goal is to convert the 
> two-dimensional map
> plotted by the computer into something a blind driver can touch.
> They have tested a grid of air holes that shoot bursts of 
> air, using various
> pulses and pressures, to convey topographical data. (A higher 
> pressure could
> signal hills or bumps.)
> "You have to understand, this is a prototype," said Dennis Hong, an
> associate professor at Virginia Tech who directs the robotics lab. 
> "First time in the history of mankind."
> He predicts a safe, stable technology for blind motorists will arrive
> "within the next three years. The problem is not the 
> technology. The problem
> is public perception and legal issues."
> He urges detractors to think of the last time they flew in an 
> airplane. "On
> autopilot," he said. "Nobody questions that."
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