Tag Archives: Mobile

Tactile Graphics, An Introduction

Book Cover, Texture, Quackery All Bricked Up and Nowhere to Go ... Nailed Texture
Texture: Drain Cover Washington, DC: Donkeys: Black & Braille Rough
Montebello: Pottery Texture Woven Sculpture #4 Univ of Mich Binding Imprint

This week I attended a webinar on tactile graphics. Most people I know would say, “Tactile graphics? What does that mean?” So let’s start with that.

In a way, we’ve always had tactile graphics, in the broad sense of pieces designed for visual impact which carry tactile interest or information. Leatherworking often has designs punched into the leather; quipu knotwork carried mathematical data; old books had logos embossed into the covers; pottery might have painted ornaments layered onto the surface which can be felt and distinguished; sculptural shapes might be designed with textures that add layers of insight to the underlying meaning of the work; fabrics can have textures woven into them.

And of course, there’s always Braille, in which embossed or raised dots carry very specific kinds of meaning — words and numbers. In the center of the opening montage is an image of a sculpture of a donkey covered with Braille letters and words. This was a political statue in Washington DC. I don’t know what it says, but I imagine someone with blindness caressing the glossy blackness and curved shapes of the statue, reading the words of the Declaration of Independence, or the statements of the Bill of Rights. Such a powerful metaphor for the idea of tactile graphics. But in another sense, this explanation is a kind of digression, for in the actual world of artists creating art to be touched, the phrase they use is not “tactile graphics” but “tactile art” or “sensational art,” meaning art for senses beyond simply vision and art explicitly designed to be touched. If you are interested in this aspect of tactile artistry and graphics, you might want to be aware of the work of Ann Cunningham, who is a leader in this space.

Ann not only creates artwork that carries dual meaning through combined visual and tactile designs, but is also engaged in how this can carry over to shaping information and making “sensational books.” If you have ever tried to read a plain text (ASCII) version of a heavily illustrated book, in which the images have been redacted since they are not text, you may have some insight into the challenges of reading books while blind. You can read the text, but whenever you reach a place where an image is referenced, you read whatever description was given in the text, but that is usually minimal and refers to the image itself for further insight, and the image is not there. As a sighted person, I often go the the Internet Archive and download both the ASCII version of the book (for speed and portability) and a PDF version (which includes the graphics). I’ll read the ASCII text, and when I become sufficiently frustrated, I will open the PDF online version to see what image they are talking about.

Here is an example of what I mean, a work about Vincent Van Gogh. In the first screenshot, if you are sighted, you will see the title page and opening etching, entitled “Le Semeur.” The image shows a young man in peasant garb, grasping a large bag with his left hand, and making a gesture with his open palmed right hand. Even if you don’t read French, you may be able to guess at the meaning of “Le Semeur,” which is “The Sower.” In the second screenshot, if you are sighted, you will see the same area of the book in the raw text format. Where the image should be, there is nothing but a string of cryptic meaningless computer code, followed by the words, “LE SEMEUR.” There is no indication that you are even missing an image, no clue given as to what content it is that you are missing. Later on in the book, there will be a table listing images in the text, and that may give you a clue, but until you get to that point, you are pretty much lost.

Screenshots illustrating how images "translate" to text in OCR.
Screenshots illustrating how images "translate" to text in OCR.
Van Gogh, par Théodore Duret. Full: https://archive.org/details/vangoghvincent00dureuoft Text only:
https://archive.org/stream/vangoghvincent00dureuoft/vangoghvincent00dureuoft_djvu.txt

So, very broadly then, tactile graphics are graphics which carry meaning through elements that can be touched. More narrowly, the phrase “tactile graphics” has become meaningful as an explicit technique in the creation of accessible information for persons with visual impairment. This is actually closely related to the work being done by Ann Cunningham, since the technologies used function in a similar way, often creating a kind of bas-relief version of an image so that it can be perceived and interpreted by persons who are blind. It is also work that is closely related, conceptually, to Braille, in that it explicitly tries to convert information into a format that can be deciphered by persons with blindness, in this case, visual information.

This can be done with making lines on paper that will puff up so people can feel them. This can be done with special paper, special printers, or special pens. This works fine when the images are linear, but less effective when they are more complex. It can also be done through the techniques mentioned earlier, embossing, embedding, interweaving, etcetera. There are kits, special hardware, a whole variety of technologies being developed around ways to make tactile graphics. All of those approaches tend to be very time-consuming. New technologies being used to create accessible tactile graphics include 3D printing, in which image characteristics are converted to a three-dimensional form and literally converted into a kind of flattened sculptural form of the image. There are some concerns that all the hype around 3D printing will lead to people focusing on that as the ONLY kind of tactile graphic option, which is far from the case, or that people will mistake the conversion of images to 3d format for actually making the images accessible, which may or may not be the case. A particularly eloquent description of this dilemma was posted to Facebook by a teacher of young children with special needs, Yue-Ting Siu.

3D printing and Misappropriation for Tactile Graphics https://www.facebook.com/notes/yue-ting-siu/3d-printing-and-misappropriation-for-tactile-graphics/333500170166311

This was in response to a long conversation around this topic, one for which the entire conversation is well worth digging into.

That’s a very brief introduction into the concept of tactile graphics. I’ll include a few more links at the end if you want to explore more. The webinar from the Diagram Center was very interesting. The webinar, presented by Richard Ladner of the University of Washington, included a solid background in how tactile graphics for accessibility are being created now, some of the technologies, challenges, and solutions. Some of the problems are the time needed to create the tactile graphics, the low resolution of the information, the loss of complexity in the information content, and that certain types of information don’t translate well into current tactile graphic modalities. Then Dr. Ladner described the special problems associated with complex mathematical images and equations, especially those in advance mathematics, physics, and engineering texts. Without access to those images and that content, persons with blindness can be, in essence, excluded from those professions no matter what their actual talents might be. His team has been working on some new approaches to the idea of tactile graphics, creating images that can be read with a smartphone. Wow. Now, this is still fairly early in the development life cycle, but the potential for this new approach is phenomenal.

The Storify (below) includes my notes and links from livetweeting the webinar. The webinar itself, Tactile Graphics with a Voice, will soon be posted on the DIAGRAM site.

Storify: Tactile Graphics With a Voice: https://storify.com/pfanderson/tactile-graphics-with-a-voice


MORE INFORMATION

Tactile Graphics: http://www.tactilegraphics.org/
– Producing Tactile Graphics: http://www.tactilegraphics.org/computerassistedtactiles.html

3D Tactile Graphics: http://3dtactilegraphics.com/

American Foundation for the Blind:
– Basic Principles for Preparing Tactile Graphics http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/professional-development/teachers/tactile-graphics/1235
– Braille Writing Tools and Tools for Tactile Graphics http://www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/using-technology/reading-and-writing/braille-writing-tools-and-tools-for-tactile-graphics/1235
– Deciding Whether to Create a Tactile Graphic http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/professional-development/solutions-forum/electronic-files-and-research-work-group/deciding-whether-to-create-a-tactile-graphic/12345
– Resources for Preparing Quality Tactile Graphics http://www.afb.org/info/resources-for-preparing-quality-tactile-graphics/5
– Tactile Graphics Course: http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/professional-development/solutions-forum/interested-in-becoming-a-braille-transcriber/tactile-graphics-3016/12345
– Types and Producers of Tactile Graphics http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/professional-development/solutions-forum/training-and-other-needs-work-group/types-and-producers-of-tactile-graphics/12345

American Printing House for the Blind:
– Tactile Graphics Image Library: http://www.aph.org/tgil/
– Tactile Graphics & Manipulatives Available from APH (Missouri School for the Blind: Outreach Services) http://msb.dese.mo.gov/outreach-services/documents/Tactile-Graphics-Products.pdf

UPDATE: MORE RESOURCES FROM THE DIAGRAM CENTER

The DIAGRAM Center: http://diagramcenter.org/
– The Accessible Image Sample Book: http://diagramcenter.org/standards-and-practices/accessible-image-sample-book.html
– Poet Image Description Tool: http://diagramcenter.org/development/poet.html
– Research Reports from DIAGRAM: http://diagramcenter.org/research.html
– Tools from DIAGRAM: http://diagramcenter.org/development.html
– Webinars: http://diagramcenter.org/webinars.html

Personalized Medicine, Biosensors, Mobile Medical Apps, and More

At the Quantified Self Meetup, someone was praising the Rock Health slides. Of course, I had to go explore and see what was so great. These are my favorites.

About FDA’s Guidance for Mobile Medical Apps

FDA 101: A guide to the FDA for digital health entrepreneurs by @Rock_Health: http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/fda-101-a-guide-to-the-fda-for-digital-health-entrepreneurs

I especially took note of slide 10, where they describe things I would think of as an app, but which do not qualify as such for FDA regulation. This is an important distinction I hadn’t previously considered. Slide 12 takes it further by describing the categories of regulation as based on risk to patients, with good clear examples. Slie 21 on “pro tips” would have really benefitted companies like 23andMe (even though that isn’t actually a mobile medical app, the pro tips still apply, and in spades).

Biosensing Wearable Tech

The Future of Biosensing Wearables by @Rock_Health http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/the-future-of-biosensing-wearables-by-rockhealth

This one definitely gets into topics relevant to the quantified self movement and self-tracking. Slide six emphasizes the shift from the low hanging fruit (fitness, pulse, sleep) to the long tail — more targeted solutions for specific challenges (hydration, glucose, salinity, skin conductance, posture, oxygenation, heart rhythm, respiration, eyetracking, brain activity, etc.). That’s really quite interesting, and it gives examples of companies working in each space.

Slides 19-24 get into several of the areas our own local meetup defined as challenges to success for companies working in this space and for the future success of the entire area — it has to work, easily, and dependably. Slides 27-30 extrapolate these challenges into the transition into healthcare environments.

Personalized Medicine

The Future of Personalized Health Care: Predictive Analytics by @Rock_Health http://www.slideshare.net/RockHealth/the-future-of-personalized-health-care-predictive-analytics-press Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJak41hIDWc

SLIDES

VIDEO

It’s probably safe to say that most individuals working in the quantified self / self-tracking space eventually end up struggling with the issue of how to use their data to anticipate avoidable problems. This idea can be translated into the jargon phrase of “predictive analytics.” Slide 11 does a nice job of lining this up with how traditional healthcare is practiced, which is very useful. Slide 12 places this in the context of big data resources, databases, and tools, listing several of the main players. This context is essential for making personal data relevant beyond the drawn out process of n=1 studies. Slide 14 identifies the BIG problem of how companies working in this space largely focus on hospitals and health care providers, and seem to have entirely missed the idea that patients are deeply and actively engaged in this space. And, frankly, there are more of us than them (even if our pockets aren’t as deep). I love the phrase on slide 18, “Symptom calculators are the “recommendation engines” of health care.” Most of the rest of the deck identifies challenges and opportunities, which I hope any entrepreneurial types would examine closely. Do notice that there is a video with this one. You can hear the entire webinar as well as reviewing the slides.

Global Metrics for Access & Use of Social Media & Technologies


Global Digital Statistics 2014: Social, Digital & Mobile Around The World (January 2014) http://www.slideshare.net/wearesocialsg/social-digital-mobile-around-the-world-january-2014

Consider this slide deck from We Are Social a reference resource. I know many of the departments recruit students from other parts of the world. This is a great resource to give both a high level overview of how people around the world tend to use various types of technologies, as well as a comparison metrics at the level of individual countries, so you can plan appropriate and respectful strategies for approaching a specific community. Some folk also use this to plan for travel, so they have an idea what resources will be easy to access in a given location.

They also do a lovely job of providing their sources, which are worth repeating here.

* China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC): http://www1.cnnic.cn/ 32nd Statistical Report on Internet Development: http://www1.cnnic.cn/AU/MediaC/rdxw/hotnews/201307/t20130722_40723.htm
* Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ Newsroom: http://newsroom.fb.com/ Key Facts: http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts
* International Telecommunication Union (ITU): http://www.itu.int/ Statistics http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx
* Internet World Stats: http://www.internetworldstats.com/
* TenCent (China): http://www.tencent.com/en-us/index.shtml
* US CIA: World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ Internet Users: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2153rank.html
* US Census: http://www.census.gov/
* VKontakte (Russia): http://vk.com/club200

On the other hand, sometimes, while searching for links for these, I found other resources that are at least as useful, if not more so. Then I would also stumble on special tools, apps and infographics! Enjoy!

MORE INTERNET STATISTICS

Internet Census 2012: http://internetcensus2012.bitbucket.org/paper.html

Internet Security Census 2013: http://www.fortinet.com/resource_center/survey/internet-security-census-2013-global-survey.html

OpenNet Initiative (Internet Censorship): https://opennet.net/

Social Bakers: Facebook Statistics: http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/

W3Techs (Web Technology Surveys): http://w3techs.com/ Technologies: http://w3techs.com/technologies/ Languages Used: http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_language/all

Wikipedia: Global Internet Usage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage
NOTE: This one has great graphs.

World Map of Social Networks: http://vincos.it/world-map-of-social-networks/

EXTRAS

US Census Mobile App (dwellr): http://www.census.gov/mobile/

US Census: Data Visualization of the Week: Total Population and Population Missing Due to HIV/AIDS Epidemics: 2012; Selected Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa http://www.census.gov/dataviz/visualizations/062/?intcmp=sldr7

US Census: Infographics Highlight the History and Measurement of Poverty: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/poverty/cb14-tps02.html

Worldometers: http://www.worldometers.info/

Mobile Education Opps and Apps from UM’s Soloway

I’ve been on a real mobile kick lately. Dusting off Rheingold’s book, reading up on mobile tech for library reference, and much more. I’m not the only one! UM Prof. Soloway has come up with software to help facilitate using cell phones as education technology devices in the classroom. Check it out – he’s a bit of a character.