Haptic Assistance and Augmented Sensing for Enhancing Autonomy of Visually Impaired People

Organizers: Federica Barontini, Giuseppe Averta, Simone Fani

Website: https://sites.google.com/ing.unipi.it/h-augmented2019/

Visual impairment affects approximately 253 million people worldwide, of which 36 million are blind, and 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment. Vision loss limits the quality-of-life of the affected individuals and their families, and furthermore represents an economic burden to society. Enhancing the autonomy of Visually Impaired People is mandatory to improve their life conditions but also to reduce social costs. Autonomous walking and navigation represents a crucial component for personal autonomy. Recently, advanced technological solutions in perception and sensory substitution (audio or, more effectively, tactile) have been developed to address this issue. However, the proposed systems have been often met with scarce acceptance by end users. Reasons for this are related to social obtrusiveness of those systems, the lack of compact and discreet solutions as well as insufficient navigational stimuli. This workshop will focus on recent advancements for augmented sensing and assistance to enhance blind people’s autonomy in everyday life actions, with special attention to solutions for autonomous walking in indoor and outdoor environments. This challenge requires a multidisciplinary effort to integrate different aspects of robotics research such as perception, planning, navigation, and haptics, with a thorough investigation of VIP sensory-motor apparatus and technological accessibility.