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1 The MoBIC project

1.1 Introduction

The purpose of this project is to increase the independent mobility of visually disabled people travelling in an unknown environment by developing an orientation and navigation aid. The project will concentrate on blind people, but also address the needs of partially sighted and elderly people.

MoBIC ("Mobility of Blind and Elderly People Interacting with Computers") has the primary goal to help blind and elderly people in fixing their position and finding their way in towns. For this purpose electronic positioning systems (GPS) are used in connection with digital maps. A variety of information is to be integrated enabling preparations to be carried out at home within the MoBIC pre-journey system. The MoBIC outdoor system is designed for the actual journey; it provides exact positioning and easy access to all necessary information.

1.2 Mobility and Blindness

Mobility often depends on the possibility of getting access to information. The project aims at overcoming the problems of blind people not having easy access to this information. Blind persons have difficulty in planning their journeys because they have little information about the route to be taken and the location to which they wish to travel. Orientation problems can result from of having insufficient information about their position, orientation and the direction of their destination. Sighted people have access to a variety of informational sources to prepare a journey such as maps and timetables. For people with visual disabilities, access to these informational sources is restricted. The innovative aspect of this project is to make such materials available to blind people both before a journey for planning, and during a journey for immediate consultation.

1.3 Objectives of the Project

One objective of this project is to develop a prototype of an electronic travel aid comprising two interrelated components. A pre-journey system will assist the user to plan journeys. An outdoor system will carry out the prepared plans by providing the user with navigation assistance in outdoor environments. It consists of a handheld computer with appropriate input and output devices and a trip management system. It will be based on technology emerging for non-disabled travellers like positioning systems, electronic compasses and telecommunication services. Fixed interfaces have to be specified to prevent the system from being outdated by the rapidly changing technology in this field.

1.4 Usability

To ensure the usability of the resulting system, an extensive part of the project will focus on user requirements. This includes the participation of users in the design and implementation phase of the project. One outcome of the project will be a detailed specification of user requirements which will be device independent. Two field trials will be carried out to evaluate the project results against this specification.

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