About the project – University of Copenhagen

About the project

The aim and vision of the project is to eventually help blind people and people with impaired vision navigating in their everyday life.

The project is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research project with partners from the Faculty of Humanities (focusing on the needs of blind people and how they use the technology from a humanistic perspective) and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (focusing on the cognition of blind people when using technology). The research is established as basic research but also has focus on innovation and impact. 

One way in which the project seeks to have impact is through developing an app that makes blind people's everyday life easier through obstacle detection when navigating. The app will enable the user to “see” the outer world in the sense that cameras and other sensors interpret the visual environment, and conveys information about it to the blind user.

The project is funded by Synoptik-Fonden and will run until June 2017.

Research design

The interdisciplinary approach is reflected in the research design. Researchers will gather data in controlled experimental settings and in real-life situations. These two large data sources, will be compared in different ways:

Setting 1: controlled experimental setting

Experimental and behavioral testing with blind persons and person with impaired vision, using wearable technology while using different apps. The primary location is at the Panum Building. We will test different scenarios with a group of congenitally blind and late blind participants going through the same procedures. A human labyrinth and reading occasions will be constructed and data collected and documented. We estimate to include 16 congenitally blind, 16 late blind and 16 with impaired vision. In all planned experiments, participants will be tested repeatedly to examine improvement over time.

Setting 2: real-life situations

We will follow, observe and document blind individuals using wearable technology in real life situations, e.g. in a shopping and working environment, and in conjunction with normally seeing people. We will test different scenarios with a group of congenitally and late blind individuals going through the same procedures.

Methods and theory

The research will be based on two different but overlapping scientific traditions: the humanities and health science. This will enable fruitful discussions and novelty in the research. The applied methods will be:

  • Ethnographic observations and use of video ethnography (Hindmarsh, Heath, & Luff, 2010)

  • Ethnomethodological breaching and quasi-experiments (Garfinkel, 1967)

  • Multimodal conversation analysis of social interaction (Streeck, Goodwin, and LeBaron 2011)

  • Behavioral studies in a laboratory setting of the use of glass in tasks of spatial navigation