Feedback about: Virtual maps for the blind and visually impaired


Happy to be here! Sorry for the delayed response. Fall term has been really busy!

I hope the information is useful. Stephen, I had some thoughts about a couple of your previous questions.

> I’m trying to learn the encumbrances of technologies that have attempted to move tactile maps to smartphones, but I am not finding much.


> I’m attempting to find research that proves the comparative inefficacy of cross-modal interactions between two-dimensional objects like tablets/smartphones and three-dimensional objects like tactile maps. I’m not finding a lot, and it leaves me wondering if there is a gap in map UI’s that could be valuable.

I do think there is a gap here. The research articles I posted, while acknowledging any known flaws in their respective approaches, overall seem to find that interactive tactile maps are effective learning tools. It seems that the barrier to wider adoption is not the efficacy of these maps. I think the primary barriers are:

* Authoring tools or production methods are too complex to be easily adopted.

* Access to the required equipment/software to author or interact with maps

Many of the methods in the [3D Printed Maps folder]( involve electronics embedded into 3D printed maps or some other complex production process. Some studies feature automated tools that simplify the preparation process, but it seems those tools have not been maintained after completion of the studies. The high learning curve that users face when trying to implement these approaches is likely enough to prevent wider adoption.

Some people may not have access to the necessary equipment to reproduce some of these approaches, and many authoring tools aren’t accessible, preventing blind users from creating their own maps. To simplify his production process, Götzelmann recommends using a 3D printer with a dual extruder to print conductive filament wires into the map. Printers that are capable of this are few and far between. In the [AR/VR Folder](, Thevin and Brock use a very simple authoring and production process to augment typical raised-line tactile graphics, but their approach requires at least a camera and a projector (and their authoring software). They also developed a method that allows blind users to create their own maps to use with their system. While this is a very promising approach, projectors aren’t necessarily a common household object.

Smartphones and tablets have been so widely adopted that they seem like an excellent tool to leverage for interactive tactile maps. The [project I worked on]( required a smartphone or tablet with a stand, QR code stickers, and 3D printed models. The authoring process was a little complex, and it wasn’t accessible. I found this approach to be very useful, but unfortunately I don’t think it will be publicly available any time soon.

Some sort of simple UI for creating or utilizing interactive tactile maps or other objects would be fantastic!