OSM Direction tool for Visually Impaired

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This page will summarize various activities that have been a part of the development process of the Project.

Introduction

Project's GSoC Page - OSM Direction tool for Visually Impaired
Project Proposal - GSoC Proposal
Project Mentor - Artem Dudarev
Project Developer - Rajan Vaish

Abstract

The application is a Keyboard accessible Directions tool using OpenStreetMap for Visually Impaired people (as well as general mass), such that maps can be used by all. It works on the principle such that, after user enters source and destination as his/her query in text boxes, the route or walking/driving directions are resulted as output not only on maps but also as detailed text explaining entire route (confirming to W3C guidelines), such that it is easily readable.

Plan of action

The project is basically divided into 2 parts:

1- Generating Routing Information in text (making it Graphical maps independent).
2- Making it Web accessible and embedding with WebAnyWhere Online Screen Reader.

Final Application

The project exceeded requirements as per abstract, and many modules/prototypes were developed. All of them easily readable through WebAnywhere (of which I am committer now).

Modules

1- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination in Europe. (Geocoding and Routing APIs from OpenRouteService.org).
2- Point of Interests along Route and/or around Source/Destination in Europe. (Geocoding and Directory/POI APIs from OpenRouteService.org).
3- Dynamic Talking Map for Firefox, which also helps browsing Point of Interests around any location in Europe. (Open Source Outfox plugin from UNC, USA, Directory/POI APIs from OpenRouteService.org and Location finder from Google Gears Geolocation APIs).
3.1- OSM Maps for Partially Visually Impaired (Global!)

Prototypes

1- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination. (Geocoding and Routing APIs from CloudMade).
2- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination. (Geocoding and Routing APIs from CloudMade's Web Maps Lite JavaScript Lib).
3- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination. (Geocoding from Namefinder and Routing APIs from YOURS/Gosmore project).
4- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination. (Geocoding from Yahoo! Geodata and Routing APIs from OpenRouteService.org project).
5- Directions tool with Routing Information for any Source to any Destination in Europe. (Geocoding and Routing APIs from OpenRouteService.org - translated in Python to run on Google Apps Engine).

Survey

Phase 1-

After Mid term evaluation I met Dr.U.N. Sinha from University of Lucknow, India (senior member of National Association for Blinds, who is himself Visually Impaired). He was very pleased to see the application and found it very useful. Things he wanted to ease the usability were.1-Distance of Destination with respect to Source. 2-Some sort of talking application, which helps understanding Spatial structure of maps.

Phase 2-

Around Final evaluation, after firm pencils down date and implementing features on the basis of Phase1 feedback. I again got some survey's done. I got our apps' survey at 3 places today (24th Aug'09). 1- State School for Blinds, Mohan Road, Lucknow. 2- Dr. U.N. Sinha at University of Lucknow, Lucknow. 3- National Association for Blind's branch/training center, Indira Nagar, Lucknow.

Details 1- Survey was conducted with 5 High School Visually Impaired students of ages 14-16, with almost 1 year Computer experience. Amongst them I invited a student whom I met in March'09 for Microsoft's Imagine Cup Accessibility Awards and it was he, who gave me idea to work on a maps based application for Visually Impaired. I asked him to use it, on the basis of his and other students, these are the feedback: Good/Bad: a) They liked the Geolocation feature a lot (even though it's not very accurate for India). b) They were amazed to see Routing information tool, told me that they had never used such a thing ever. c) Talking map, they told that it would be useful, but I was told that these students are for the first time using "touch pad" of a laptop, and had hardly used mouse even. So, their fingers were slipping and they were moving it very fast or very slow, they were not able to understand the touch pad/mouse thing (since they have been always used to keyboard access only), but then I started moving my fingers with theirs (holding their hands), and then they finally could get its sense, and felt the application really great. Even the teacher who was watching all this, praised about the application. The other flaws and things they demanded was for India. So, that they can practically start using it. I told them, that I'll try to work on it in future sometime.

Details 2- I met Dr. Sinha in his office today. Since, he knew how Routing information app works, I told that I had integrated functionality of Direction of destination with respect to source, which he found great, and then I directly explained working of talking maps, he found the app wonderful, but at the same time suggested some ideas/tips. Like: a) The size of image should be bit larger, so that user is free to move around comfortably and without constraints. b) A warning mechanism (sound), which tells that mouse is not hovering over the map right now, such that user quickly finds map and hovers over it only. But the good thing was, that he actually felt the help from the application in understanding the spatial structure of the map. I noticed one thing, that accuracy was not really very very important, as visually impaired people were trying to understand things on "relativity" as in position of London Bridge WITH RESPECT TO Tower of London, etc .. so even if it's not very accurate for us, they could make out that "okay, it's south east or whatever to xyz " .. This was a cool observation ..

Detail 3- Then I went to IndiraNagar training center, and was disappointed to find that due to absence to teacher today, students were asked to go back to their homes (as they had only one teacher to train and no substitutes), but then I explained the application to Supervisor of the center, who was well sighted and could see like us. I explained and showed her app, she found it great, and could not see many flaws, on which she could comment upon. Though, she also said, that I should work for India in future (this was a common feedback, which I got from all 3 surveys. Though Prototype 4 implements the functionality on global scale, it still needs refinement for efficient usage).


For updates and Source code please see OpenVoiceNav.