New device allows blind to read graphs

Melbourne, July 30 (IANS): In what could open up new career paths and educational opportunities for the visually impaired, researchers have developed a digital system that allows them to read graphical material.

The system combines a number of pattern recognition technologies into a single platform and, for the first time, allows mathematics and graphical material to be extracted and converted to audio format with navigation mark-up without sighted intervention.

The controls are very much like a cassette player with a couple of additions for navigating through headings or chapters.

"We hope this device will open up new opportunities for people with vision impairment - it is a matter of providing more independence, and not having to rely on sighted assistance to be able to read graphical and mathematical material," said Iain Murray, a senior lecturer at Curtin University in Australia.

The system runs on inexpensive platforms, with an expected production cost as low as $100 per device, allowing it to be affordable to many people around the world and hopefully make a difference in third world countries, Murray added.

Previously there have been many methods to convert graphical material, but all are very labour intensive and generally not easily transferable to other users, he noted.

"Our system is easily operated by people of all ages and abilities and it is open source, meaning anyone with the skill can use and modify the software to suit their application," Murray said.


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