Helping Hand

Helping Hand – A Light-Weight Glove That Locates and Identifies Objects for the Visually Impaired

There are now 1100 returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan with vision injuries [Zoroya, 2007]. By the year 2010 the number of Americans with visual impairment is projected to increase from 11.4 million recorded in the 2000 census to approximately 20 million, of whom more than 3 million will be veterans [De l'Aune, 2002]. For many of these visually impaired individuals, locating and identifying specific objects can be an arduous task, as these activities ideally require eye-hand coordination. To address this issue we propose the use of a Helping Hand: A RFID glove that can be used as an immersive tool to improve the hand?eye coordination skills of the visually impaired. This proposed research directly addresses VA’s mission by attending to the “compensation for loss” issues and “quality of life “mandates.

By definition hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received through the eyes to control and direct the hands to carry out a given task, such as reaching for a phone or picking up a box of cereal. The loss of functional visual has an adverse effect on the performance of these tasks. Contrary to popular belief, many people with visual impairment have some useful residual vision. People with glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy have vision that is partially obstructed. For many of these people, their vision cannot be restored. Therefore, appropriate tools might be developed with which they could improve their functional skills and quality of life.

We have modified, redesigned and implemented a new lightweight RFID glove called the Helping Hand. The glove currently supports object recognition.  Objects are labeled with near-field passive RFID tags.  When the antenna of the glove comes within 2 – 3 inches of the tagged object, audible feedback relating to the object is played from the glove. This self-contained unit (integrated with onboard SD card and a microprocessor) is a significant improvement from the previous Talk-2-the-Hand glove that depends on a laptop computer for audio playback.

We have conducted cross over study to determine the effectiveness of a RFID wearable versus other technologies designed for object identification. Specifically, the study compares (1) baseline with no assistive device, (2) using the OQO device with web cam and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology and (3) the Helping Hand glove. Our study showed marked differences in the time required by a subject to locate and correctly identify tagged objects in a space. We employed a within-subjects test design where each participant was asked to locate and correctly identify common household objects.  Items tested were randomized to counterbalance any learned effects



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