Digital technologies are ubiquitous in our daily lives and have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and interact with each other with information. We have anytime, anywhere access to digital content in a wide range of formats, from images, videos, text and voice to virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Because today's technologies rely almost exclusively on visual and auditory feedback, obvious accessibility issues arise. Accordingly, access to digital content remains difficult for people with visual impairments. Current solutions such as text-to-speech conversion or the use of a Braille display, while helping to display textual information, also quickly lead to fatigue and have limitations with non-linear, pictorial or mixed content often found on websites or in scientific publications. Braille displays also have the disadvantage that they only display content on one line and are very expensive with a price of up to 10,000 EUR.
In the research project "ABILITY", a new method is being used to develop a low-cost multi-line Braille display that is directly coupled to a multi-touch tablet. The tablet also has a screen that can vibrate selectively over the entire screen surface. This opens up completely new possibilities for the non-visual presentation of information, especially when combined with other sensory modalities such as speech or sounds and user interaction.
The OFFIS Society Department supports this project by researching AI methods for the analysis of visual media (for example, recognition of objects, faces, environments) and methods for translating visual content into tactile-acoustic content that can be output via the new technology. Furthermore, OFFIS scientists are working on the development of use cases in which the potential of these developments can be demonstrated and evaluated with the target group.
The project consortium is composed of the partners CEA (France, coordinator), Lund University (Sweden), H-Lab (France), Siemens (Germany), Inside Vision (France), Samsung (UK) and the Lithuanian Association for Blind and Visually Impaired People. It is funded by the EU under the Horizon Europe Research Framework Programme from September 2022 to August 2025.