Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, XebiaLabs Blog, Bob Gourley

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers

Java IoT: Article

Java Breakthrough: Code That Helps Blind People To Read Maps

Cornell Student Ankur Moitra Uses Java to Write Pioneering Image-to-Sound Software

Take Java computer code that can translate images into sound, via a rudimentary software program capable of converting pixels of various colors into piano notes of various tones, and what you have is a technology that enables blind people to read maps.

Victor K. Wong, a Cornell University graduate student from Hong Kong who lost his sight in a road accident at age seven, is helping to develop innovative software that translates color into sound. "Color is something that does not exist in the world of a blind person," explains Wong. "I could see before, so I know what it is. But there is no way that I can think of to give an exact idea of color to someone who has never seen before."

He helped develop the software in Cornell's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) with undergraduate engineering student Ankur Moitra and research associate James Ferwerda from the Program of Computer Graphics.

The inspiration for using image-to-sound software came in early 2004 when Wong realized his problems in reading color-scaled weather maps of the Earth's upper atmosphere - a task that is a necessary part of his doctoral work in Professor Mike Kelley's ECE research group.

It is a field dubbed "space weather," which attempts to predict weather patterns high over the equator for use by Global Positioning System and other satellite communications. A space weather map might show altitude in the vertical direction (along the "y" axis), time in the horizontal direction (along the "x" axis), and represent density with different colors.

As a scientist, Wong needs to know more than just the general shape of an image. He needs to explore minute fluctuations and discern the numerical values of the pixels so that he can create mathematical models that match the image. "Color is an extra dimension," explains Wong.

At first, the team tried everything from having Kelley verbally describe the maps to Wong to attempting to print the maps in Braille. When none of those methods provided the detail and resolution Wong needed, he and Ferwerda began investigating software. Moitra later became their project programmer."We started with the basic research question of how to represent a detailed color-scaled image to someone who is blind," recalls Ferwerda. "The most natural approach was to try sound, since color and pitch can be directly related and sensitivity to changes in pitch is quite good."

Over the summer of 2004, Moitra wrote a Java routine that could translate images into sound, and in August he unveiled a rudimentary software program capable of converting pixels of various colors into piano notes of various tones.

Wong test-drove the software by exploring a color photograph of a parrot. He used a rectangular Wacom tablet and stylus - a computer input device used as an alternative to the mouse - which gives an absolute reference to the computer screen, with the bottom left-hand corner of the tablet always corresponding to the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

As Wong guided the stylus about the tablet, piano notes began to sing out. The full range of keys on a piano was employed, allowing color resolution in 88 gradations, ranging from blue for the lowest notes to red for the highest.

The software also has an image-to-speech feature that reads aloud the numerical values of the x and y coordinates as well as the value associated with a color at any given point on the image. "In principle I could turn off the music and just have the software read out the value of each point. I would know what the gradient is in a more absolute sense, but it would get annoying after some time. It keeps reading out 200.1, 200.8, 200.5, and so on," says Wong.

One of the biggest challenges of the project is the so-called "land-and-sea" problem. "Sometimes I just want to know where is the land and where is the sea," says Wong - meaning that he would like to have an idea where the major boundaries in an image lie, such as the boundary between the parrot and the background. The problem hinges on shape recognition, which for Wong can be difficult.

In the simplest situation, the right half of an image would be completely blue and the left half completely red. To find the boundary Wong has to move the stylus continuously back and forth from one color to the next along the length of the tablet, which is both time-consuming and error prone.

To solve the land-and-sea problem, Wong, Moitra and Ferwerda tried printing the major boundary lines of an image in Braille and then laying the printed sheet over the Wacom tablet, combining both audio and tactile detection. However, they are still working to develop software that can effectively pick out the important boundaries in an image so that it can be printed.

"It is also important that there is no time delay between notes," says Moitra. "That is something we need to improve. Otherwise the image will become shifted and distorted in Victor's mind."

One of the major issues facing the project is funding. "The initial work was done on a shoestring as a side project to grants Kelley and I have received," says Ferwerda, who is preparing a proposal to the National Science Foundation to extend this work and explore other ideas for making images and other technical content accessible to blind scientists and engineers.

Says Wong: "Tackling complex color images is only one problem out of many that blind scientists are facing. But I think this is a pretty important idea."

More Stories By Java News Desk

JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

Comments (11) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Agreed 03/17/05 02:21:48 AM EST

}}} My assumption is that the blind would have increased sensitivity and perception of sound, so it may not be so difficult as I imagine. {{{

That's the key to it I think.

digitalchinky 03/16/05 08:25:11 PM EST

Not that I mind, but my slashdot comment was posted here? - it is unedited and in full, so no issue. The content is factual, if only a little vague. I was making reference to the black-knight dictionary scanners - or rather a sister system that does image recognition. The code base is similar to that of fingerprint recognition software - the downside is (still) that the machine needs to have a database of known entries to work with.

I think it'd be fairly easy to raster an image with sound, though resolution would be dependant on the short term memory of the user. Learning such a system would take quite some effort - morse code at 25wpm took 44 weeks at 8 hours per day (military) Even then it took another two years for it to become automatic (like driving a car)

My assumption is that the blind would have increased sensitivity and perception of sound, so it may not be so difficult as I imagine.

Mike L 02/14/05 02:53:03 PM EST

I was thinking that maybe higher notes be associated with blue instead of red. I think this would make more intuitive sense since red EM wavelengths are very long, while blue/UV are very short. I've also heard of people (not necessaririly blind) that can 'hear' colour, and associate low sounds with red and high with blue.

Maybe it should be optional, if not default, to change the direction that sound is associated with colour. It might even help for this sort of thing to catch on if there was a standardized sound/colour scheme that corresponded to the actual EM wavelenghts of visible light...

Lincoln 01/31/05 12:36:21 PM EST

Is there a demo online? I'd like to see it in action.

Jerry Davison 01/31/05 10:09:25 AM EST

This technology could be reversed and used to translate music into pictures for the deaf.

Paul Gbiby 01/28/05 03:28:53 PM EST

Fascinating!
What's really interesting, though, is what is going on in Victor's mind as he processes his exploration of the pictures -- how he makes sense of the piano notes.

Glock27 01/27/05 07:29:10 AM EST

Java is being used for lots of interesting, cutting edge software projects. Freenet, speech recognition, game development, many Apache projects, Azureus...there are plenty of cool Java packages out there.

The fact is that the industry was badly in need of a sane replacement for C++. Java hit that niche quite nicely, and that accounts for its popularity.

error629 01/27/05 07:18:40 AM EST

Can't be any worse than http://video.google.com , which reads hastily typed subtitles. It can be amusing. :)

art6217 01/27/05 07:10:45 AM EST

Sound might be a very important way to convey images, either an additional one to textures, or replacing the textures completely. It may instantly inform about the kind of a surface. Sound might also convey edges, but then there is a problem of detecting edges: it is usually easy if the map is in a vector form, but in the case of general raster images a good edge detector or even a human that would mark the edges might be needed.

Lars Westergren 01/27/05 07:06:57 AM EST

My previous job was at the Swedish national library for the blind/visually disabled. Their lives have gotten a LOT easier with technology, and especially the net, but there are still lots of problems.

The greatest service you can do to them is make sure all web pages you make are HTML 4.01 compliant though. Alt tags for pictures are of course important (even if it just saying "logo"), and screen reader programs are not as forgiving as IE/Mozilla/Firefox et al when it comes to confusing tags.

digitalchinky 01/27/05 07:05:38 AM EST

I remember seeing a few 'black boxes' (Sparc 20's to be vaguely specific) that were running some fairly interesting algorithms (around the 1997/98 ish era) that would identify logo's from various transmissions, mostly faxes, thus identifying the sending entity.

It was more miss than hit, though I'm sure the recognition software has improved since then, it still relied upon a mathmatic description of the original image, much the same as a voice print.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2017 New York The 7th Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Chris Matthieu is the co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, a revolutionary real-time IoT platform recently acquired by Citrix. Octoblu connects things, systems, people and clouds to a global mesh network allowing users to automate and control design flo...
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.