Innovation on New Information System for Blind and Visually Impaired Inviduals

The artificial intelligence group at Freie Universität Berlin, under the direction of the computer science professor Raúl Rojas, has developed a new type of information system for blind and visually impaired individuals. Field trials are being carried out to optimize the device for future users. During the next six months it will be tested by 25 persons. The artificial intelligence group at Freie Universität is collaborating with a research group at the Telekom Laboratories headed by Dr. Pablo Vidales and the Berlin Association for the Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired e.V. The joint project is called InformA.

"InformA" is a small computer that is connected wirelessly to the Internet. The device is operated like a radio. The user can choose between different information channels. By pressing a button, the time or the weather will be announced, but there are also current newspapers available as audio files.

In addition, e-mails can be read aloud by the device. The user can answer e-mails by dictating a message. An integrated camera makes it possible to have printed documents such as letters or package information leaflets read aloud fully automatically. In more complicated cases - such as a statement of account for a heating bill - the user of the device can take a photo of the document and send it to a call center. Persons doing community service instead of military service who work for the Berlin Association for the Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired e.V. then provide further assistance. "Through the wealth of information provided by InformA, the device can also be of interest for older people without previous experience with computers, who until now have not had access to information offered through the Internet," according to the project leader, Raúl Rojas.

InformA is an example of an information appliance. Even in the age of the Internet, it is not always necessary to use a fully equipped computer for online communications. Specialized equipment, such as internet radios, can cover specific needs, if the equipment is small, portable, and easy to use.

This is the link to the research university (Freie Universität Berlin)


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