Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Students at Arizona State University (ASU) Design A New Innovative System To Help Visually Impaired Students See and Take Notes

Visually impaired students on American College campuses number roughly 75,000. These students often struggle to keep up in traditional classes as they attempt to view and read white or blackboards, take notes, and listen to lecture. Many students rely upon small eyeglass-mounted telescopes. These telescopes assist students with low vision to see the boards, but the narrow field of vision provided by the telescope allows the student to only focus upon one section at a time. To take notes, the students must take off the telescope and go back-and forth between using the assistive tool. This can often cause a student to miss important lecture concepts as they try to keep up. A recent graduate of ASU, David S. Hayden, who himself has low vision led a team of other students to develop a system, called Note-Taker. The innovative system couples a tablet PC and a high-resolution video camera to assist students in vision and note taking. The product recently won second place in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup technology competition and is in its fourth generation of development.

Note-Taker includes screen commands that deploy the camera to pan and zoom. The video content can include audio which may be saved for later reference, or played in real time on the tablet. The tool also allows students a space for typed or handwritten notes using a stylus.

“Mr. Hayden built a prototype of the device with the help of John A. Black Jr., a researcher specializing in computing and human visual perception at the university’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing. The project was then awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation and refined with the help of Michael Astrauskas, Shashank Srinivas, and Qian Yan, who are Arizona State students” (Wiseman 2011). The tool holds great promise and as Mr. Hayden heads off to graduate school at MIT in the fall, he will no doubt have his graduate project underway.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus, August 1, 2011. Article By Rachel Wiseman.

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