A Tangible Interface-based Application for Teaching Tactual Shape Perception and Spatial Awareness Sub-Concepts to Visually Impaired Children

Rabia Jafri, Asmaa Mohammed Aljuhani and Syed Abid Ali, Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015), July 26-30, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Elsevier ScienceDirect Procedia, 2015 (accepted and to appear).

Abstract: A tangible user interface based software solution for teaching tactual shape perception and spatial awareness sub-concepts in small-scale space to visually impaired (VI) children is presented. The solution provides three-dimensional Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models of various objects conveying planar as well as three-dimensional representations of some basic shapes customized for different learning levels. The objects would be 3D-printed and tagged on multiple sides. A computer-vision based system is utilized for recognizing and tracking these tagged objects on a transparent surface. Children can then feel these objects, place them on the surface and receive audio feedback regarding shape and spatial relationships in the context of various learning activities. The aim is to provide an engaging, low-cost, do-it-yourself solution which would alleviate the demands on the time, effort and financial resources of teachers and caregivers by allowing a VI child to review and reinforce the above-mentioned concepts at her own pace autonomously. A prototype version of this system is currently being implemented. The system would be extended in the future to allow instructors to create custom shapes and to teach other essential concepts such as object sequencing and texture recognition.