Helping Visually Impaired Individuals “See” Emotions

A recent article published on the Science Daily website reports a new technology that could help those who are visually impaired to “see” emotions.

For his doctoral thesis at Umea University in Sweden, Shafiq ur Rehman developed a new tool that converts facial emotions into special tactile sensations for the visually impaired.

Rehman’s study is based on the idea that much of communication (up to 90%) is communicated non-verbally and that facial expressions of emotion are one of the most complex signal systems that we have as humans. Other recent studies have suggested that people also imitate other people to interpret their emotions. Because individuals who are visually impaired are not able to see facial expressions, this can create “barriers to social interactions”.

To allow visually impaired individuals to “see” emotions, Rehman and his team have developed a new technology “based on an ordinary web camera, hardware and a tactile display”. Using the webcam to capture certain facial expressions on the face, the hardware converts the emotion into a series of vibrational patters that correspond with the expressed emotion.

The project was funded by the Swedish Research Council and its main focus has been to characterize different emotions and to “find a way to present them by means of advanced biomedical engineering and computer vision technologies”.

Rehman’s complete article, entitled “Vibrotactile Rendering of Human Emotions on the Manifold of Facial Expressions” can be found by clicking here

One response to “Helping Visually Impaired Individuals “See” Emotions”

  1. Keith D. says:

    I wonder if this would be better accomplished by having a pad of sorts attached to a part of the blind person’s body, with little nubs that would press against their skin with varying degrees of pressure in accordance with specific facio-muscular movements according to FACS coding.

    Maybe that’s better for a future generation of the technology, or maybe reliable computer-assisted FACS-coding is still a ways off. Either way, it paints a much brighter future for blind people to communicate with others.

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