Optophone design: optical-to-auditory vision substitution for the blind

O'Hea, Adrian Ralph (1994). Optophone design: optical-to-auditory vision substitution for the blind. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e067

Abstract

An optophone is a device that turns light into sound for the benefit of blind people. The present project is intended to produce a general-purpose optophone to be worn on the head about the house and in the street, to give the wearer a detailed description in sound of the'scene he is facing. The device will therefore consist'of an'electronic camera, some signal-processing electronics, earphones`, and a battery. The two major problems are the derivation of (a) the most suitable mapping from images to sounds, and (b) an algorithm to perform the mapping in real'time on existing electronic components. This thesis concerns problem (a). Chapter 2 goes into the general scene-to-sound mapping problem in some detail'and presents the work of earlier investigators. Chapter 3 1- discusses the design of tests to evaluate the performance of candidate mappings. A theoretical performance test (TPT) is derived. Chapter 4 applies the TPT to the most obvious mapping, the cartesian piano transform. Chapter 5 applies the TPT to a mapping based on the cosine transform. Chapter 6 attempts to derive a mapping by principal component analysis, using the inaccuracies of human sight and hearing and the statistical properties of real scenes and sounds. Chapter 7 presents a complete scheme, implemented in software, for representing digitised colour scenes by audible digitised stereo sound. Chapter 8 tries to decide how'many numbers are required to specify a steady spectrum with no noticeable degradation. Chapter 9 looks'at a scheme designed to produce more natural-sounding sounds related to more meaningful portions of the scene. This scheme maps windows in the scene to steady spectral patterns of short duration, the location of the window being conveyed by simulated free-field listening. Chapter 10 gives detailed recommendations as to further work.

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