In this interdisciplinary research project, a prototypical assistive device for blind and visually impaired people was evaluated and fundamental questions about the substitution of human vision through the application of vibrotactile stimuli were investigated.
The project was concluded with the publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal.
In a collaboration between KISD and the ophthalmological research institute ZEISS Vision Science Lab at the University Hospital of Tübingen (Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen), a study with the »Unfolding Space« glove was conducted as part of this project. This glove – developed in a bachelor thesis at KISD – is a prototype aid that transmits the relative position and distance of nearby objects as vibratory stimuli to the back of the hand and thus enables blind people to haptically explore the depth of their surrounding space, assisting with navigation tasks such as object recognition and wayfinding. In the study, carried out at KISD by master’s student Jakob Kilian, fourteen sighted and blind subjects completed training sessions and a large number of obstacle course runs. The study investigated whether and how quickly the vibration patterns can be learned by the brain and used to navigate the course. In addition to the evaluation of the prototype itself and the definition of decisive criteria for its further development, another main question was whether the chosen low level of complexity of the visual information and the application of the stimuli on the back of the hand are fundamentally suitable for tactile substitution of visual information. The results were then statistically evaluated, discussed in comparison with existing aids and published in February 2022 in an article in the peer-reviewed journal MDPI – Sensors.
Prof. Dr. Lasse Scherffig
Jakob Kilian, master’s student at KISD (Project Coordination)
Other Involved Scientists
Alexander Neugebauer, ZEISS Vision Science Lab, Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen, Tübingen; Prof. Dr. Siegfried Wahl, ZEISS Vision Science Lab, Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen, Tübingen & Carl Zeiss Vision International GmbH, Aalen
Implementation funded by the University of Tübingen (ZUK 63) as part of the BMBF’s Excellence Initiative; Prototype construction funded by the Kickstart@TH Cologne 2021 project (StartUpLab@TH Cologne, funding code 13FH015SU8, also BMBF)
01.01.2021 – 28.02.2022
Kilian, Jakob/Neugebauer, Alexander/Scherffig, Lasse et al. (2022): »The Unfolding Space Glove: A Wearable Spatio-Visual to Haptic Sensory Substitution Device for Blind People«, in: Sensors 22-5: 1859 [Open Access]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/s22051859
Images: »Impressions of the Unfolding Space Study« by Kjell Wistoff