Friday, June 19, 2009

Max the Virtual Guide Dog: Special post for the Helen Keller Day Saturday, June 27th

"Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained though self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." Helen Keller (1880-1968)

One of my favorite hobbies in Second Life is the Metanomics Show. I love the topics and the issues. What I love even more, are the people that come to the show -- and what they represent. Prof. Robert Bloomfield called this, I think, constructive cacophony (see video about the show and cacophony) -- as the interactions within and between the people generates lots of value.

In one of the meetings, I noticed a nice white dressed woman holding... a dog. As I got closer I was able the read the sign. Apparently the woman who was "wearing" the dog ... is partially sighted (I guess this is the correct term for legally blind) and she is using the Max (the dog) to help her.

I spoke with the woman (SL: Louise Later) and she explained (and I quote from memory): the technology behind Max is based on scanner that is located in the dog. The scanner looks around for objects, and people, and gives information about them to the user. You will also note the blue chair. It helps the blind person sit without needed to point and "sit" on the object. (See all the details here regarding Max and its home.)



A recent ireport (from CNN) states: (With many more details).
Louise, who is partially sighted in real life, arrived with a guide dog (called Max), I had not been aware that guide dogs existed in SL. Jolie, who is completely blind in real life, had a stick with her. There are three things in SL, the guide dog, the stick and a ring, which can assist sight impaired people. Louise explained to me that the dog (and it’s a similar system with the stick and the ring) ‘is assistive technology developed by our team’ she added ‘virtual helping hands.’ Saxet said ‘the power is Max Voice Plus, that reads the SL interface to the person who is blind or visually impaired.’ Indeed they are unveiling a new ‘Max’ at the event, the dog is the creation of Nogad Ay and Charles Mountain, and it is a brilliant idea!
Give them your support, and go and have a great time too, at the Helen Keller Day Event on the 27 June. Many thanks to Cat, Saxet, Willow, Louise, Jolie, and Polgara for this interview and the very best of luck for the future.


Standards should come into place. Here's a simple example. Every object should have an textual alt text field and a language code. A creator of an object can choose to state alternative text that describe the object in as many languages as they wish. While many will not fill this field, some will, there may be even a team of people who would want to do it. The result: blind friendly objects as well as textual content search on them and more.