Into the Future : The Seeing Machine and Accessing Architecture

the seeing machine | accesing architecture

The Seeing Machine

The Scanning Laser Opthalmascope, invented by Dr. Robert Webb, was designed to test the fraction of healthy retina remaining in a person suffering from retinal disease. It works by projecting an image past vision obstructing hemorrhages onto the healthy part of a viewer's retina (if any), thus enabling the viewer to see. Elizabeth Goldring is interested in the nonmedical application of this machine for the visually impaired by enabling them to read certain texts and to see visual poems, and, more recently, to experience architecture.

Based on experiences with the SLO, we've built a cheaper, more portable version in order to reach the public m ore effectively. We are testing this verstion of the SLO, named "The Seeing Machine", with visual language perception and architectural models, supported by a pilot study grant from NASA. The ability to undesrstand the concept of space depends primarily on vision. We hope that through our collaboration with NASA, the blind and visually challenged will be able to participate in the space program in the future.

Accessing Architecture

Confronting unknown physical conditions particular to a new place can be a source of anxiety for most of us. The option of a pre-glance or pre-visit might go far in allaying a host of anxieties. Entering an architectural space for the first time can be a source of terror, particularly for people who are blind or visually compromised - are there steps; railings; what lies on the other side of the door; around a corner; what unexpected obstacles; where in the chaos of "brick and motar" or steel and glass is the destination - the right office, etc. Not having answers to these basic questions can result in extreme anxiety, loss of independence and undermine a sense of well-being.

Some of these and other basic questions can only believably be answered even for people who are visually compromised through spatial visual imaging. On site braille "relief maps" , while better than nothing, do not adequately relieve anxieties that may keep people from going to new places.

"Accessible Architecture" is a project that proposes to create virtual environment walkthroughs of existing buildings, enabling people to to pre-visit them and become familiar with them, thus eliminating some of the anxiety of experiencing an unfamiliar place. To accomplish this, The Seeing Machine and the SLO will be used in conjunction with architectural models, created in AutoCAD and then programmed with navigation and force-feedback capability. In this way, the person walking "through" them can feel their way around by pairing visual input with a virtual walking stick.