GuideCall: affordable and trustworthy video call-based remote assistance for people with visual impairments

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Ravindran, Naveen Mukundan
Namboodiri, Vinod

Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) individuals often face many challenges while performing daily tasks or exploring new places. Assistive technologies can help a BVI individual to be independent by addressing some of these challenges, but there remain many tasks that still require some sort of human assistance. Given that human assistance from someone nearby is not always possible or preferable, there is an increasing trend of using video-calls to receive assistance from a human remotely. To better understand how well current remote video-calling applications serve the needs of BVI individuals, this work conducts an online user study with 55 participants. The responses received suggest that the current approaches to provide remote assistance through video calls are either too expensive or do not use helpers whom a BVI individual can fully trust. This work presents a smartphone application called GuideCall that enables BVI individuals to draw assistance through a video call with a single volunteer helper selected from one of many pre-constructed situation appropriate groups of trusted individuals. GuideCall provides a unique combination of features not present in commodity video-calling applications and is specifically built to meet the needs of BVI individuals. Preliminary evaluations show GuideCall to be fairly effective in many daily tasks BVI individuals encounter, potentially proving to be an inexpensive option for receiving assistance while being more confident about the quality of assistance, privacy, and safety.

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Thesis (M.S.)-- Wichita State University, College of Engineering, Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science