High Tech DeafBlind Ice Skating/Sports?

Here is my brain fart for today.

So, I notice that I am very slow on the ice. Part of this is because I suck right now. But part of this is the level of concentration it takes for me to be aware of where I am and what goes on around me. My brain can only process so much of the veiled visual, audio and tactile cues that I get in order to keep oriented. This has gotten a lot worse than in the past. And though I know that my speed could get better after I get “back to it” and get some of my basic skills back, I question if it will because of the speed I need to go to keep orienting.

My husband and I run an adaptive tech business. He is the tech guru, I provide administrative support. So often when I come up with a challenge like this, I think to myself, “ok, how could tech help?” And then I go to my in-house tech guru and see what he has to say.

Micronavigation is all the rage in tech right now in blindness adaptive tech. Its an emerging industry and it has not reached its full potential yet. But it may be promising for the future. There has been tech that has helped blind people by leaps and bounds when dealing with more outdoor “macro” travel. GPS on iphones and mapping apps have helped tremendously. One of the most widely used ones is called BlindSquare. This app takes crowd sourced navigation information and puts it in your ear. For example, you can be walking down the street and it will say “SW 5th Avenue, 20 ft ahead.” or “Jamba Juice at 3:00.” It will also give you turn by turn directions.We have used it to navigate around Chicago’s Botanical Gardens and even to find our way back to our son’s sand castle after a beach walk by setting a “beacon” at that point.

I am at a disadvantage with blind square because I can’t hear it outside. It can work clumsily with a braille display, and this is one of the things I have been bugging the company about. I can still use it, but I have to set it to give me a very low amount of info at once and then stop often for the braille to keep up with it. This is typical for DB people. We usually have to wait for developers to remember we exist, too.

Another option for me is to set up directions in maps and then use an apple watch to give you tactile prompts for when to turn left and right and other information. This has been great for many deaf blind people. I don’t have an apple watch–not at all because I just spent $500 on skates! But someday, I will get one. The tactile cues for deaf blind people and their applications keep getting better and better.

But micro navigation is giving information about the so-called “last 30 feet,” such as the door to the store you want to go into or the evevator or bathrooms in a building. Blindsquare has used a technology called iBeacon to label hotel rooms in a conference or even gates at an airport. Here is a short video that shows how it works:

So, I started thinking about whether this could be useful in a rink setting.  Could I put beacons on the rink to send tactile info to my apple watch to give me location information? And if I got used to this, could I then skate faster? Like, what if there were beacons on the four “corners” of the rink and when I got near them, I would get a different kind of pulse on my watch? It would be another (less distracting) set of orienting information. Hmmmm….

I don’t think the technology is there quite yet. It might be more like nano-micronavigation? (Someone can let me know if it is!) But who knows what could happen in the next few years. And maybe this could work with other sports and rec activities like soccer (on the goals) or basketball or the gates on ski slopes, etc. It would take a lot of goofing around with, but an interesting concept may be coming down our way.

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