Exploring the Potential of Eyewear-Based Wearable Display Devices for Use by the Visually Impaired

Rabia Jafri and Syed Abid Ali. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on User Science and Engineering (i-USEr 2014), September 2-5, Shah Alam, Malaysia, IEEE Computer Society, 2014 (Accepted and to appear in the conference proceedings).

Abstract: Head-mounted wearable devices offer visually impaired users discreet and hands-free access to digital information augmenting their awareness of and facilitating their interaction with their environment. However, to date, only a few such prototypical solutions have been developed whose unwieldy and attention-drawing components preclude mainstream public acceptance. Recently, some natural-eyewear based display devices, such as Google Glass, have emerged which are distinguished by their compactness, inconspicuousness and versatility of functions. As opposed to able-bodied people, for whom these devices are merely gadgets whose utility lies mainly in their potential to entertain and inform, for the visually impaired, the continuous hands-free information access about visual cues in their environment afforded by these devices has life-changing implications providing them with the means to attain increased autonomy and enhance their self-reliance. This paper endeavors to draw the attention of the research and development community to the assistive potential of these devices. The utility of several existing functions in these devices for the visually impaired is examined, suggestions for making these functions accessible are offered and some new applications for these platforms are proposed. Some insights into the practicality and usefulness of such devices from a visually impaired user’s perspective – based on an unstructured interview with a blind individual in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – are reported.