A range of emerging technologies integrated with existing solutions could offer blind people and others with disabilities new ways of solving their everyday problems, according to a paper from Kevin Carey, director of the digital inclusion charity humanITy (www.humanity.org.uk).
The paper was presented at a recent inclusive digital economy conference at the University of York. In it Carey says: “There is enough technology to assist us with most of our problems but it is not integrated in the right way. If we spent more time, energy and money integrating rather than thinking up clever new, specialised and expensive assistive technologies, we would all be better off.”
For example in the future, modular user interfaces “will allow us to couple a large, portable screen with a small mobile telephone, bring the sound of a television into a remote controller or cable-free ear phones, allow the use of a large screen to ‘blow up’ an image or show a small part of it in great detail.”
And a combination of satellite and voluntary surveillance technologies such as webcam networks could be used “to transmit highly localised audio information, so that I can ask ‘Where am I?’ and receive an immediate answer,” Carey says.
Other potentially useful new technologies include:
– hand-held devices to calculate whether it is safe to cross a street on the basis of the distance and speed of vehicles;
– ‘Stereoscopic Lithographic Apparatus’ (SLA) or ‘fast prototyping’ technologies [whereby objects are created or ‘printed’ live in three dimensions by building them up in layers of resin] to add a new dimension to tactile graphics and model making which will probably
prove to be more valuable than the use of haptic force feedback;
– high definition data transmission through enhanced broadband and HDTV will transmit unmixed audio so that up to 32 parallel tracks can be differentiated, allowing more scope both to alter scale and deconstruct the layers of images.
For a copy of Carey’s paper see: www.addw08.org/workshops.htm.