Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Graduate Student Develops App to Help Blind Students Learn!

Graduate Student Develops App to Help Blind Students Learn!

Engineering graduate student Jenna Gorlewicz,(Vanderbilt University, Nashville) has created an Android app that uses haptic technology to help high school students with low vision feel math shapes on a tablet devise. Haptic has Greek origins "haptesthai," meaning to touch. As an innovation, haptics equates the science and physiology of the sense of touch into virtual reality. Scientists have studied haptics for decades and much is known about how we incorporate the sense of touch through skin receptors and make sense of it in the brain. Computer scientists have been working diligently to advance this new field for gamming and for educational purposes.

Haptic technology provides touch feedback through motion such as vibrations and is widely used in gaming. In fact, it is the means behind the Android game Teeter which causes the hand-held device to vibrate in your hands when you play golf. Other games also vibrate or move the handheld devise when you are simulating driving across a bumpy terrain. The application is endless.

Gorlewicz’s project was funded by the National Science Foundation and she used her programming skills to cause the tablet to vibrate or generate a specific tone when a student touched a line, curve, or shape on the screen. Inherent in the program, are different vibration frequencies and hundreds of different sounds to specify different features of a shape. For example, Gorlewicz can set the X-Y axis to different frequencies and points to emit tones which would allow students the ability to differentiate between gridlines and points on a grid.

Other researchers have used haptic technology to simulate the springiness of a kidney under forceps in medical school, the push of an individual carbon nanotube in an atomic force microscope and the texture of clothing for sale on the Internet. Under development for instructional purposes and online teaching will be simulated surgery. Similar to how pilots train in flight simulators, would-be surgeons will be able to practice their first incisions without actually cutting anyone. There was also much talk and speculation that the iPad 3 would have haptic technology, but I have not seen evidence of this in any review or the Apple specs. To learn more, about Ms. Gorlewicz’s project click on the link below or search haptic technology.


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