SoundView: Sensing Color Images by Kinesthetic Audio

By Kees van den Doel

SoundView is an assistive device for the blind which allows the sensing of a color image through touch and hearing.

A visual image is mapped onto a virtual surface as a fine-grained color dependent sound texture. The user explores the image by moving a pointer device over the image, which acts like a virtual gramophone needle, and the sounds produced depend on the motion as well as on the color of the area explored. In this manner, a mental map of the image can be constructed which corresponds directly to the visual image. It is similar in concept to reading Braille, except it uses sound.

The current software prototype, designed for usability testing, uses a graphics tablet to project the image on, and a graphics pen as a pointing device. Digital images can be loaded and explored. The system works on MSWindows, Linux, and Macintosh. User studies are currently being performed to assess the usability of the device.

In this talk I'll explain the design principles/philosophy of SoundView and discuss results of user studies.

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