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FingerEye: An Electrotactile-mechanism Enabled Adaptive Sensory-substitution Aid for the Blind and Visually Impaired
AuthorRahimi, Seyed M.
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The objective of this research is to investigate, design and validate a wearable electro-Braille device and associated fingertip skin stimulation mechanisms for the blind or visually impaired (BVI). The final goal is to develop a novel electrotactile-based Braille (E-Braille) technology that helps the BVI to read any printed text that is not only written in the Braille language. The principle of work is the underlying electrotactile technique where a specialized electrical signal is used to stimulate the nerve fibers and touch receptors under the skin in the fingertip. This results in supplying electro-tactile sensations to the BVI user as if they are moving their fingertip over the traditional Braille bumps. To reach the research goal, numerous methodologies and techniques have been investigated and developed to facilitate this new system, including: an algorithm generating and controlling pattern stimulation; an improved Optical Character Recognition (OCR) algorithm for extracting the text; an amplitude modulation technique to control the voltage delivered to the skin; and the Kalman filter to predict and guide the fingertip over the text lines. In addition, extensive tests are performed to investigate skin non-linear properties, perceptual attributes of the electro-tactile stimuli, dynamic spatial mapping, pattern identification, and sub-divisional spatial mapping based on the bio-impedance feedback. These investigations facilitate the understanding of the non-linearity of the skin properties and relevant neuro-electric stimulation mechanisms. The fundamental findings and the adaptive electronic systems further work in conjunction to provide a universal technical solution as an advanced electrotactile-based Braille technology.Ultimately, this system is capable of scanning any regular written text and converting it to the electro Braille signals for the BVI user. This novel and system-level wearable technology enables the user to read any text in anywhere and anytime.