kestrell: (Default)
I was asked to review an academic article written about a speculative fiction story featuring blindness. The publishing assistant sent me the file in a filetype which my computer couldn't open and, after resending the file to me, I Googled and found out that that filetype is not accessible with Jaws, my screen reader.
kestrell: (Default)
Am I the only one who is wondering how they get the mice to wear those Jordie-like glasses?
http://www.macfound.org/fellows/899/
kestrell: (Default)
This is pretty damn awsome, although I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't throw in the occasional random hallucination like I use to experience, because having black dogs, little brown twisty gnomy people, and floating trees at the edge of your vision will really keep you alert.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visionsim-by-braille-institute/id525114829?mt=8
kestrell: (Default)
I admit that I found a lot of the description about the circles really confusing, although I expect it would make sense in the actual material form. Still, it was great reading about someone playing with the comics format.
http://www.hallo.pm/life/?et_mid=622880&rid=232919196
kestrell: (Default)
Did you know that Mark Twain was a fanboy for Helen Keller? What is it about curmudgeons and blind women?

Here is a letter from Twain to Keller
http://www.braillebug.org/hktwain.asp

My favorite bits:

1. block quote start
I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they'll say, "there they come--sit down in front." I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same.
block quote end
I expect that it was this sort of encouragement which resulted in J. Edgar Hoover keeping a file on Keller...

2. block quote start
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that "plagiarism" farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul--let us go farther and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances in plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them any where except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.

When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten thousand men--but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington's battle, in some degree, and we call it his but there were others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone, or any other important thing--and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite--that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.
block quote end

3. Oh, and here is my favorite Mark Twain quote about Keller:
Blindness is an exciting business, I tell you; if you don't believe it get up some dark night on the wrong side of your bed when the house is on fire and try to find the door.
- quoted by Helen Keller, Midstream
from this page on Mark Twain quotes about Helen Keller
http://www.twainquotes.com/Keller_Helen.html

4. And last, but not least, here is an online exhibit about Twain and Keller, their friendship, and parallels in each of their lives
http://www.historyofredding.com/epl/twain-keller-exhibit.htm
kestrell: (Default)
_What the Nose Knows: The Science of Smell in Everyday Life_ (2008) by Avery Gilbert

The author's description of himself demonstrates that he is definitely someone who gets to play in the overlap between science and media studies:
"...I'm a sensory psychologist, trained in evolutionary theory, animal behavior, and neuroscience. I'm a rational, evidence-based guy working in the most frothy, fashion-driven, marketing-heavy business outside of Hollywood....
The new science of smell is making us rethink everything from wine tasting to Smell-O-Vision. So it's time for a fresh look at odor perception and how it plays out in popular culture."

1. How many smells are there?
lengthy post below the cut )
kestrell: (Default)
I've been living in the Boston area for over twelve years, and I've been selected for jury duty five or six times, but have never actually been selected to serve on a jury. I have this theory that, as a blind person, I am unlikely to be selected because there's a general attitude on the part of lawyers that blind people are less inclined to be influenced by visual evidence (yes, it's another case of American blind justice!).

Thus, my question: have any of my blind online acquaintances ever served on a jury"? And, if so, did it involved visual evidence, such as photographs?
kestrell: (Default)
Every once in a while, my favorite blog, "The Art of Darkness," posts a list of amusing things the blogger has seen online. I found the most recent of these posts
http://www.shadowmanor.com/blog/?p=16502
particularly entertaining, as it included, among other quotes, the following:

"I will be buried in a spring loaded casket filled with confetti, and a future archaeologist will have one awesome day at work." JiminyKicksIt

"I finally learned how to teach my guys to ID the passive voice. If you can insert “by zombies” after the verb, you have passive voice." johnsonr

and
dammit owls you KNOW who this is" donni.

However, I feel compelled to correct a misapprehension of sighties as expressed in the following statement:

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man doesn’t really have to wear clothes ever. KenJennings

In my experience, I can almost always tell when a man is naked, because there are basically two kinds of men (outside of one's partner) in the world.

One is the kind of man who sounds really embarrassed when accidentally caught naked, even by a blind woman.

The other kind of man sounds really proud when caught naked, even by a blind woman.

Three- or four-year-old boys exhibit no particular affect when caught naked by anybody. (I have my suspicions that housemate T. falls into this category.)
kestrell: (Default)
I just discovered that there is a LucasionChair.org Web site, with this biography of Nicholas Saunderson
http://www.lucasianchair.org/18/saunderson.html
who is one of my heroes. He became blind as a baby but became a wizard at mathematics and, being one of the few people who really understood what Newton was talking about, taught optics at Cambridge, which had turned him down years earlier when he applied to be a student. He also invented his own accessible calculating device and boards for demonstrating geometrical shapes in two dimensions and geometrical forms in three dimensions (I really wish these boards were still produced by some company). Saunderson's fame was actually mostly as a teacher, since he provided such clear explanations of cutting edge mathematics that everyone came to his classes to find out what Newton was actually going on about. I love this idea of a blind person explaining light and form to a packed room of sighted people.

Btw, if you are wondering what the Lucasion Chair is, it is the chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, occupied in the past by Isaac Newton, in the present by Stephen Hawking and, at some point in the future, by Data.
kestrell: (Default)
I started wondering about this last winter and could find no information whatsoever, so I'm posting to LJ/DW in hopes of mining the group intelligence. Considering the lack of info, *knowledgeable* guesses are welcome.

Can lightboxes benefit blind people? Specifically, someone like me, with prosthetic eyes and thus zero light perception?

I realize that the emphasis is always on light being perceived through the eyes but, as light is also absorbed through the skin, I am wondering if this could also have a beneficial effect. Is this idea absolutely ridiculous, or is it just that no one has bothered doing a study with blind people? Should I just go ahead and conduct my own experiment? (Okay, I'm pretty certain that the mad scientists are all for doing my own experiments.)
kestrell: (Default)
Forget Klingon--I wish I could speak Beep. What is Beep, you ask? It's the mysterious language in which so many appliances speak nowadays. I'm (mostly) over the human anxiety that beeping comes five seconds before exploding, and I'm no longer wary of the newish dishwasher, not that I am really certain what the dishwasher was threatening me with when it beeped at me; perhaps that it would shoot a jet of water at me like a displeased octopus?

A little while ago, I accidentally touched the electronic fly zapper in the kitchen and it beeped at me (twice! the ominous double beep!)and I found myself wondering if it thought I was a giant bug and was calculating how much it should up the voltage.

I'm pretty certain I could kick Alan Arkin's ass, but I am a little worried about the appliances. I comfort myself with the (almost) certainty that the cord for the Roomba isn't long enough to reach the attic. On the other hand, if the house appliances manage to turn my toy Turret, I'm probably doomed.
kestrell: (Default)
from
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/simultaneous-localization-mapping-kinect-0216.html

Robots could one day navigate through constantly changing surroundings with virtually no input from humans, thanks to a system that allows them to build and continuously update a three-dimensional map of their environment using a low-cost camera such as Microsoft’s Kinect.

The system, being developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), could also allow blind people to make their way unaided through crowded buildings such as hospitals and shopping malls.

To explore unknown environments, robots need to be able to map them as they move around — estimating the distance between themselves and nearby walls, for example — and to plan a route around any obstacles, says Maurice Fallon, a research scientist at CSAIL who is developing these systems alongside John J. Leonard, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering, and graduate student Hordur Johannsson.

But while a large amount of research has been devoted to developing one-off maps that robots can use to navigate around an area, these systems cannot adjust to changes in the surroundings over time, Fallon says: “If you see objects that were not there previously, it is difficult for a robot to incorporate that into its map.”

The new approach, based on a technique called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), will allow robots to constantly update a map as they learn new information over time, he says. The team has previously tested the approach on robots equipped with expensive laser-scanners, but in a paper to be presented this May at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in St. Paul, Minn., they have now shown how a robot can locate itself in such a map with just a low-cost Kinect-like camera.

As the robot travels through an unexplored area, the Kinect sensor’s visible-light video camera and infrared depth sensor scan the surroundings, building up a 3-D model of the walls of the room and the objects within it. Then, when the robot passes through the same area again, the system compares the features of the new image it has created — including details such as the edges of walls, for example — with all the previous images it has taken until it finds a match.

At the same time, the system constantly estimates the robot’s motion, using on-board sensors that measure the distance its wheels have rotated. By combining the visual information with this motion data, it can determine where within the building the robot is positioned. Combining the two sources of information allows the system to eliminate errors that might creep in if it relied on the robot’s on-board sensors alone, Fallon says.

Once the system is certain of its location, any new features that have appeared since the previous picture was taken can be incorporated into the map by combining the old and new images of the scene, Fallon says.

The team tested the system on a robotic wheelchair, a PR2 robot developed by Willow Garage in Menlo Park, Calif., and in a portable sensor suit worn by a human volunteer. They found it could locate itself within a 3-D map of its surroundings while traveling at up to 1.5 meters per second.

Ultimately, the algorithm could allow robots to travel around office or hospital buildings, planning their own routes with little or no input from humans, Fallon says.

It could also be used as a wearable visual aid for blind people, allowing them to move around even large and crowded buildings independently, says Seth Teller, head of the Robotics, Vision and Sensor Networks group at CSAIL and principal investigator of the human-portable mapping project. “There are also a lot of military applications, like mapping a bunker or cave network to enable a quick exit or re-entry when needed,” he says. “Or a HazMat team could
enter a biological or chemical weapons site and quickly map it on foot, while marking any hazardous spots or objects for handling by a remediation team coming later. These teams wear so much equipment that time is of the essence, making efficient mapping and navigation critical.”

While a great deal of research is focused on developing algorithms to allow robots to create maps of places they have visited, the work of Fallon and his colleagues takes these efforts to a new level, says Radu Rusu, a research scientist at Willow Garage who was not involved in this project. That is because the team is using the Microsoft Kinect sensor to map the entire 3-D space, not just viewing everything in two dimensions.

“This opens up exciting new possibilities in robot research and engineering, as the old-school ‘flatland’ assumption that the scientific community has been using for many years is fundamentally flawed,” he says. “Robots that fly or navigate in environments with stairs, ramps and all sorts of other indoor architectural elements are getting one step closer to actually doing something useful. And it all starts with being able to navigate.”
kestrell: (Default)
Not relevant for my blindness, but this could well turn out to be the first widespread use of stem-cells, especially considering that the number of people with age-related visual impairments is supposed to double in the next decade or so.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/01/23/145636849/stem-cells-show-promise-as-blindness-treatment-in-early-study?ps=sh_stcathdl
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: I read about this on the Top Tech Tidbits newsletter, so I don't know any more than what is included in the ad:
Congenitally blind English speaking adults can earn $120 for taking part in a 4-8 hour online survey being conducted at MIT. For information email:
saxelab.surveys@gmail.com
kestrell: (Default)
“How the Blind View Art”
6pm at the Open Door Gallery, 89 South Street, Boston
Simon Hayhoe, will introduce his research project being conducted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Panel Discussion: Reactions to the current gallery show, Who is a Deaf artist?, featuring the work of Jiayi Zhou with audio description by Vince Lombardi. Preview the show and access the Audio Description at http://www.vsamass.org/gallery.php

Panelists:
Janet LaBreck, Commissioner, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.
Bill Henderson, retired Boston Public School principal
Kim Charlson, director of the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library
Carl Richardson, Massachusetts State House ADA Coordinator.

Simon Hayhoe, from the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics, is currently a Fulbright Fellow undertaking research on visually impaired people's understanding of exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the exhibits presented in their database of art works online. He wrote the monograph, Arts, Culture and Blindness, God Money and Politics, and Arts Culture and Blindness.

Earlier in the day:

“Is Belief More Important Than Perception to Blind Students Studying Fine Art?”
12:00pm at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Eliot-Lyman Room, Longfellow
Hall, 13 Appian Way, Cambridge

Simon Hayhoe will present a lecture on visual culture and blindness. Contact Scott Ruescher in the AIE program at scott_ruescher@harvard.edu for other information.
kestrell: (Default)
The American Printing House for the Blind is selling this kind of cool board game called
Treks
https://shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_TREKS:%20The%20Game%20of%20Compass%20Directions_1-08910-00P_10001_11051
which I admit I thought was much more cool when I thought it was a handheld gadget and before I found out the price was $109.

Since this could be a really great way for visually-impaired kids--or even adults-- to learn about navigating their neighborhood or the neighborhood where their school is (I would actually like to have one of these for MIT), I wanted to figure out what it would take for someone to make a less expensive DIY version.

You can buy blank game boards here
http://www.barebooks.com/gameboards.htm
$3.95 for just the board, $7.95 for the kit.

Tactile dice are pretty easy to find: get the folks at Pandemonium to order some for you or you can order these
Giant Tactile Dice Black with White Dots for $4.95 at Amazon.com.

You could probably make an overlay from one of those clear plastic covers kids use for class reports, just add your own braille labels or raised dots, let's call that $5 spent at your local CVS or Staples.

You can purchase these
Bump Dots Medium Clear Round 20 per pack by Maxi-Aids
for $2.62 on Amazon
or you could use puff paint--let's splurge and say we want to use all the colors--
Tulip 3D Fashion Paint 1-1/4 Ounces 6/Pkg-Puffy by Duncan $23.75 on Amazon.

Rounding up to whole dollar amounts that still comes in under $50, less than half the price of the original game.
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: I'm hoping to find someone to go to this with me.

Wednesday, October 5th

“Is Belief More Important Than Perception to Blind Students Studying Fine Art?”
12:00pm at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Simon Hayhoe will present a lecture on visual culture and blindness at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on Appian Way in Cambridge. Contact Scott Ruescher in the AIE program at scott_ruescher@harvard.edu for the exact location and other information.

“How the Blind View Art”
6pm at the Open Door Gallery
Simon Hayhoe, will introduce his research project being conducted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Panel Discussion: Reactions to the current gallery show, Who is a Deaf artist?, featuring the work of Jiayi Zhou with audio description by Vince Lombardi. Preview the show at http://www.vsamass.org/gallery.php

Panelists:
Janet LaBreck, Commissioner, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.
Bill Henderson, retired Boston Public School principal
Kim Charlson, director of the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library
Carl Richardson, Massachusetts State House ADA Coordinator.

Simon Hayhoe, from the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics, is currently a Fulbright Fellow undertaking research on visually impaired people's understanding of exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the exhibits presented in their database of art works online. He wrote the monograph, Arts, Culture and Blindness and the autobiographical book, Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness.
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: I really wanted to title this "Evil hand for the blind" but thought that would be too misleading. Now I wan to find a geek who will help me build one of these--I already have the Polycaprolactone plastic.
http://grathio.com/2011/08/meet-the-tacit-project-its-sonar-for-the-blind/
kestrell: (Default)
1. Here's the link to the Facebook page for visually impaired photographers
https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=133294703352148&v=wall

2. Visually impaired photographer features in Nokia commercial

A visually impaired photographer features in a brand new TV
advertisement for the latest Nokia camera phone. Gary Waite, a
photographer from Croydon stars in the advertisement as he wanders
around Blackpool taking photos with the camera phone. Waite unearthed
his talent for photography with the help of charity PhotoVoice.
PhotoVoice was set up to empower disadvantaged communities across the UK
and the world through photography. The charity works with amateur and
commercial photographers from Leeds to Lebanon on various projects that
highlight and capture the plight of disadvantaged communities.
Waite participated in the Sights Unseen project for the charity teaching
visually impaired and blind people sensory photography techniques. Waite
said:

“I’ve been taught to use my other senses to take pictures.
“For instance, hearing and smelling the sea air and the sound of the
roller coaster then, like every photographer, taking as many shots as
possible.”
from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-12596142

3. And here's a few of my favorite entries from a list of famous blind and visually impaired people
http://www.foroyaa.gm/modules/news/article.php?storyid=7305
continued below cut )

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