New software allows the blind to ’see’ their printed portrait images

Thursday, February 17, 2011

WASHINGTON - Computer scientists in Arizona have demonstrated new software that enables the blind to ’see’ their printed portrait images.

Their software allows a blind user to take a photo of his/her face, put it into a computer application, and automatically generate a new printable image. The image comes out of a special tactile printer with raised lines along the facial features, reports Discovery News.

Baoxin Li, an associate professor of computer science at Arizona State University, is behind the idea that was inspired by a blind ASU researcher who wished she could access more graphical information.

Making all digital graphics accessible to the blind would have been an overwhelming challenge, so Li and colleagues focused on profile pictures.

They had to find the right balance of information so the person would be recognizable.

“We converted the photo in such a way so the major facial landmarks are nicely kept - that’s very important because we can’t render all the features into tactile form,” said Li.

Instead, an algorithm pares down crucial facial information without oversimplifying it.

“At the moment it’s within one minute or so, but we can further optimise the software to do it faster,” said Li.

The software currently works on expensive printers, but the researchers are working on a lower-cost, paperless tactile display for the software.

The finding has been described in the journal IEEE Transactions on Multimedia last year. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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