STEM II involves the research and development of an Assistive Technology project that improves the quality of life for a person with disabilities within the community.
This typically begins in March after the conclusion of our school wide STEM I fair.
VisualAid - A Novel Text Reader for the Visually Impaired
The overall aim of this project is to develop a system that assists individuals with loss of central vision in detecting and reading text in their day-to-day lives.
Around 2 billion people worldwide are affected with visual impairments . The broad scope of visual impairment includes complete blindness as well as low vision. The degree to which people with low vision are unable to read texts at a standard viewing level can be used to determine the difference between those with normal vision and those with low vision (Demmin, 2020). There are a variety of causes that may lead to visual impairment, including ocular diseases like cataract, macular degeneration, chronic open-angle glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and dementia (“Low Vision,” n.d.). All of these low vision problems, although different in the region of blindness and symptoms, result in a partial inability for the affected individual to see well and thus identify objects and read text effectively. Among the most arduous challenges that visually impaired patients face, the effect on reading ability impacts many aspects of life for patients, including education, employment, and social interaction (Legge, 2016). As such, there has been a shift towards adapting text format to meet the needs of visually impaired patients. Although optical magnifiers are effective visual aids for patients with mild forms of low vision, they are not as effective for severely visually impaired patients because of the restricted field of view and the demands of page navigation. The promise of digital text for more effective reading enhancement warrants a further investigation into existing methods such as the OrCam and RFID reader that primarily work off the objects and text detection in an image that is captured for the separate purposes of identification and navigation respectively. The improvement of detection capabilities, usability, and cost reduction is imperative to increase the effectiveness and accessibility of these devices for those who need them.
Below is our final Active Design Review slideshow detailing our build process and final prototype in addition to our future extensions for this project.