Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Derek Weeks, Patrick Hubbard

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
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CHEETAH Training & Innovation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CHEETAH Training & Innovation is a cloud consulting and IT training firm specializing in improving clients cloud strategies and infrastructures for medium to large companies.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datanami has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datanami is a communication channel dedicated to providing insight, analysis and up-to-the-minute information about emerging trends and solutions in Big Data. The publication sheds light on all cutting-edge technologies including networking, storage and applications, and thei...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...