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Problem Statements

The client is Tanvas which is a company that works on designing and developing haptic (“involving tactile sense” ) touchscreen technology. They developed this technology using electrostatics to generate controlled resistive forces against the user’s fingers and tablets surface . This gives users virtual touch experience, such as clothing material or a rough piece of virtual sandpaper . Furthermore, 60% of people in the world will be using smartphones by 2020 . A smartphone is defined as “a mobile phone able to function like a computer that is typically touch screen” . Based on this information it can be assumed that smartphone users heavily rely on their sight to interact with the mobile devices, which is a disability that VI individuals struggle with. Visual impairment is defined as having a 6/60 or worse vision in the better eye, which is not correctable by standard glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery . In this project we will focus on individuals with vision between 6/60 to 3/60. Furthermore,Visual impairment causes a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, challenging. Hence, Tanvas sees their technology being used to ease VI individuals lives.

2.0 Problem Statement

Tanvas tasked the Engineering Strategies and Practice teams at University of Toronto to utilize their technology to enhance an existing app’s method of communication with VI users. Tanvas has specifically asked us to use their technology on apps relating to, Health and wellness, time, operating system or navigation . Since, navigation is an important part of our life, as a group we chose this topic as the scope of our project.

Current navigation technologies utilized by the VI often update the users with information by auditory communication, however audio cues are not always reliable or effective. Background noises in a loud, urban environment, for example, can prevent one from hearing the device clearly without use of headphones . Headphones, on the other hand, can also be detrimental in a busy and loud environment, as they prevent other sources of sound from reaching the user. Visually impaired people rely heavily on their auditory senses in order to maintain spacial awareness .

Therefore, the gap in technology is a navigation app that can use communicate with the users through the sense of touch , and doesn’t only rely on visual or auditory feedback.

3.0 Detailed Requirements

The design will focus on improving the Google maps app by converting the navigation route, streetcar and intersection information into a format which can be conveyed through Tanvas’ haptic feedback . Success will be measured through tests and objectives.

3.1 Functions

Through research on how VI users use Google Maps ,, we created a Task Analysis of their actions that can be seen in the Appendix (A). From it, we discovered that the Google Maps app is missing information on the physical environment that may cause danger to the users. This results the chosen functions of the navigation app which shows in:

  • Primary Functions
  • Secondary Functions
  • Indicate current location and destination
  • Display current location
  • Calculate current location through satellites
  • Current location is indicated through haptic touch
  • Convert directions, intersections and streetcar locations to haptic touch
  • Generate directions
  • Locate directions from Google map calculations
  • Display the directional path
  • Prevent the user from entering an area inaccessible or blocked
  • Generate location of street cars and intersections close to the user
  • Locate street car lines and road crossings in the direction of the user
  • Display the streetcar lines and the intersections
  • Directions, streetcar crossings and intersections felt through haptic touch
  • To indicate areas which the user is not permitted to enter

3.2 Objectives (how well does the app gives info to user)

The general objectives of the navigation app for VI users are the ability to navigate while using the app and better accessibility output compared to Google Maps found through research and consideration of the service environment. The how-why tree in Appendix (B) presents the idea of the generation of sub-objectives such as enough information output for the users from the general objective. The respective metrics, goals and the priority are shown in the Table 3.2.

Urban Planners

Provided with the navigational information through an online platform, the visually impaired would travel to a larger area. This requires urban planners to ensure that all accessibility infrastructures are in place in those regions.

4.0 Conclusion

Tanvas desires an improvement on an navigation application for VI users with the use of their haptic technology. We are focusing on converting navigation information to haptic touch with Tanvas’ technology. We will hand in the problem statement document by November 2, 2018. During the next stage, idea generation, we will be coming up with as many solutions as possible that fall within the constraints and perform the functions that we have specified in this document.

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.

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