Orient, inform, warn. Orientation assistance for the blind

The objective of the project OIWOB (Orient, inform, warn. Orientation assistance for the blind.) is to develop a prototype assistance system that supports blind people in their orientation and therefore saves their mobility and improves their quality of life.

Together with 7 project members we work in a highly interdisciplinary team, consisting of academical partners, organisations and small businesses to research a system that gives blind people an 3-dimensional impression of the geometry of the environment around via auralization (to make something audible) in form of natural reflection sounds.

The detection of the surroundings is realised by a pair of two mini-stereo-cameras, which are mounted in glasses. The development of the glasses frame is one of the major parts in the project. On the one hand the whole construction must be as light as possible to satisfy the demands of potential customers. On the other hand, in order to provide high quality and high stability in creating sterical information from the camera data, it has to be inflexible. The goal for the consortium to reach is to research a prototype, which is that light and that good to wear, so the consumer acceptance can already be evaluated during the project phase. The calculation of the auralization based on the three-dimensional data shall be done by a smartphone-sized microprocessor customized on the issues of blind.

The user gets the audible information via an in-ear hearing aid. All the natural ambient noises are mixed with synthetic sounds that are customized on the pinna of the user. Objects with a special significance, e.g. silent electric vehicles, have special sounds that are also locatable in the three-dimensional space. In case of an immediate danger, it is better to warn haptic to relieve the auditory canal, which can be realized using a vibrating cane. The system will be able to provide locational as well as motion information. The data range will be more than 5 meters to make sure it is usable in daily life. Already at an early date HFC will examine several problems via its specially developed auralization simulator with visually impaired and sighted test persons.

During the whole project duration the technical development will be done in the context of the benefits of the blind and their acceptance. Extensive surveys, group workshops and tests with test persons of different ages and degrees of mobility are the chosen way to make the best of the current state of technology. That includes the development of an optimal training concept.


HFC Human-Factors-Consult GmbH

RWTH Aachen, Institut für technische Akustik

Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT), Institut für Mess- und Regelungstechnik

Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft für angewandte Forschung, Institut für Mikro- und Informationstechnik

Constin GmbH

Vistac GmbH

Deutscher Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband e.V.

Deutsche Blindenstudienanstalt e.V.