In the not so distant future, visually impaired and blind people will be able to “see through” their smartphone or tablet.
This is the bold claim from scientists at the University of Lincoln, who have been working on “adaptive mobile technology” that could make this a distinct possibility.
The study, which is funded by a Google Faculty Research Award, are looking to “embed” what they describe as a “smart vision system” in mobile devices.
This, they say, will help people with partial or no vision to get around “unfamiliar indoor environments”, for example.
Project lead Dr Nicola Bellotto, an expert on machine perception and human-centred robotics at the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, said: “This project will build on our previous research to create an interface that can be used to help people with visual impairments.
“There are many visual aids already available, from guide dogs to cameras and wearable sensors. Typical problems with the latter are usability and acceptability.
“If people were able to use technology embedded in devices such as smartphones, it would not require them to wear extra equipment which could make them feel self-conscious.”
The expert said that he and his team will be looking to tackle this issue and create a system that helps them get around in an effortless and understated way.
This is another example of how smartphones are being reconceptualised to go above and beyond what they were originally designed for.
One of the great things about this idea is that it will be intuitive – the more it is engaged with, the more data that is accumulated, the greater its ability to deliver an enhanced service.