Drishti: A Pedestrian Navigation System for the Blind in Dynamic Environments

Overview

When visually impaired people walk around campus and downtown areas, they do so lacking critical information that can affect their safty and travel experience. With limited awareness of thier surroundings, blind people often find it difficult to perform the simplest daily chores or to even take a walk in a sunny day. The DRISHTI project led by Professor Helal at the University of Florida aims to integrate advanced technologies and build a system and appropriate interfaces to navigate a visually impaired person from one room on campus to another.
Geographical Information System (GIS) and Spatial Databases are two technologies used to capture information about buildings, rooms, sidewalks, stairs, construction areas, bike racks, water fountains, rest rooms, and doors. Differential Global Positioning System, or DGPS is another technology that is used by DRISHTI to provide "constant" and precise location of the visually impaired person. Voice technology including Speech Synthesis and Voice Recognition is also used so the system and the user can communicate hands-free back and forth.
DRISHTI uses a wirelessly connected Wearable computer to integrate the blind user to the network and to correlate GPS location with relevant spatial information. When worn by the blind navigator, DRISHTI connects to the network in preparation to answering queris such as "Take me to XYZ building". In guiding the blind user, DRISHTI generates precision prompts to keep the user on the side walks of the shortest path to the destination.
DRISHT has been covered by several news and press agencies. The latest media coverage was an artcile in the Technology Section of the New York Times that appeared in October 17, 2002.
We are currently working on extending DRISHTI to work inside buildings and vistied spaces such as hotel rooms. By integrating Ultrasonic location positioning technology with outdoor GPS, DRISHTI will provide the blind user seamless and continuous operation inddor and outdoor. We are also scaling back the DRISHTI's footprint. Our objective is to fit the system into a high end smart phone by the end of year 2002.

Watch this
short video clip for a multimedia version of the overview.

People

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Publications:

A. Helal, S. Moore, and B. Ramachandran, "Drishti: An Integrated Navigation System for Visually Impaired and Disabled," Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Wearable Computer, October 2001, Zurich, Switzerland (pdf)