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Formal description
Use in data structures
Architectural roots
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Making pointers safer
Simulation using an array index
Project partners & contact details
Users and applications
Benefits to users
The Haptic technology is still a novel technology and its application to blind and visually impaired people is still in a research status. This project has enabled improvement of scientific knowledge in this area and an evaluation of the degree of interaction the user can have with such a system.
As with most technology, the impact of GRAB will be measured by its usefulness - and therefore by its applications. While the project team believes that there are numerous potential applications for GRAB, in the course of the project, it developed three applications:
An adventurous an searching game
A chart data explorer application
A city-map explorer application

Validation and testing
The GRAB system was tested with a total of 52 participants across the three user organisations of the project (RNIB, NCBI and ONCE). A deep analysis of the features of the GRAB system when applied to a visually impaired people was conducted in the project. This analysis enabled to identify a few key features and benefits that the GRAB system can bring to blind and visually impaired people with respect to other current haptic systems. The main advantage is related to the use of two contact points. Observation and user responses indicated that a second finger - on a separate hand - can be vital as a 'anchor' or reference point that allows the user to orientate themselves in space, more readily understand objects' relationships with one another (distances), and makes re-finding objects easier.
Other main issues that the users most appreciated are:
Larger workspace than other haptic devices
Smooth refined movement
Robustness of the device
Position accuracy
High peak forces (GRAB device has twice the force feedback of Phantom)
Fidelity, especially in terms of judging sizes and comparative distances
Interaction and exploration of objects, including features like: weight, stiffness, stickiness, curvatures, attraction forces, following a trajectory, utilities to find, recognise and explore small objects, …
Audio input and output
Interaction with a changing environment (buttons, moving objects, organising objects, detecting collisions…)
Applications
The technical components in GRAB include a new two-finger 3D force feedback Haptic Interface and a new Haptic Geometric Modeller. These are described in the section on Technical Approach.
 An adventurous an searching game
The first application developed on top of the GRAB system was an adventure a searching game, one of the applications most demanded by the users.
Early in the project the game Master Mind was forwarded as a potential application of the GRAB system. Focus group sessions from all user organisations highlighted the fact that users felt the GRAB system had more game potential than the simple game of Master Mind, and that Master Mind was already very effective as a wooden tactile game for blind users. Participants in these focus groups were highly interested in the idea of a games application for the device, but wanted the games to be more like the games that sighted people play using computers that blind people are unable to play. In particular users indicated that they wanted more active games.


In the new game, the user must move himself inside of a building of two floors. Each floor has several rooms with different prizes (extra lives, points,..), dangers (bombs, traps, a jail, …), difficulties (random distribution of the elements in each play, find keys to open a door, repair broken keys, cross a maze,..) and interactions (open doors, jump windows, gain objects, use the lift, ask for instructions/inventory…).
Validation
Participants selected for the validation were those previous participants who are blind and who showed a good degree of aptitude in using the device. The game was validated in two stages. First, a basic game with only two rooms was tested. Then, an advanced game with more dangers and hazards and new interaction ways was validated.
The validation of the game in particular based on users' comments and evaluators' observations reveals the results to be very positive.  It seems there is definitely potential for an interesting and interactive game using the GRAB system The reaction of the users in both sets of game related tests to date was positive and enthusiastic, and the system clearly presents a novel and enjoyable experience. However, some aspects still need more work: the interaction with the game environment and the design of the game itself (for example, the design of the puzzles).
 A chart data explorer application
A chart data explorer application was developed that allows visually impaired people to explore, recognise and manipulate virtual charts with the sense of touch and audio help.
Graphical representation of information, often used in finance for price or stock indices, is a powerful technique for showing historical data and predicting future trends. The problem of quickly and easily accessing numerical data presented in graphs and charts, whether the data is static or dynamically updated affects blind and Visually impaired people. The results of which are that much of the information in documents and web sites that include such graphs and charts is inaccessible. This effectively excludes blind and visually impaired people from certain professions that make heavy use of graphically presented numerical data, for example finance and certain of the sciences.
This application provides a means of importing and displaying numerical data in a way that can be interpreted using haptics and audio. The application allows:
Import Excel files
Divide the workspace in two areas to facilitate the exploration tasks and the management of the graph. All the operations undertaken by the user that change the graph (zoom, panning, activate/deactivate a graph line, change of type of representation,…) will be done in the “working area”. In the “overview area” the graph will be fix (the original graph) and will not be modified at all.
Explore simple graphs: lines, bars (columns) and pies
Explore composite graphs: set of lines and set of bars (columns)
Explore other elements: trendlines (moving average)
Haptic and/or audio tickmarks (along the x axis), cero gridline and gridlines
General features: activate/deactivate graphs, change of representation, zoom, panning and re-scaling the chart between two points or along the y axis.
Multiple User interfaces: keys, audio, buttons and Haptic effects (tapping and stopping).


The target audience for such an application includes blind users in the workplace or in higher level education, and blind users in the community with an interest in finance. An application of this kind meets the social need for inclusion, provide increased access to the workplace and education and expand employment possibilities
Validation
Participants selected for the validation were those previous participants who are blind and who showed a good degree of aptitude in using the device. The graphs application was introduced to each partner through a tutorial specifically designed to familiarise the user with the main features of the application.
Overall, the graphs explorer application seems very successful. All participants remarked that they enjoyed the experience and saw a number of potential uses for the application. As with any feature of the application there are a number of tweaks and adjustments that need to be made to create a truly useful and usable tool. However, these tests seem to show that the basic elements for a successful graphs application has been created and provides a sound basis on which to build future versions.
 A city-map explorer application
The third application is a city-map explorer to provide blind and visually impaired people with an orientation tool to prepare and learns journeys at a city.
Mobility is a perennial problem for those blind and visually impaired people striving to live independent lives. Urban environments present particular problems, as they are complex, noisy and hazardous. The problem of planning routes for city journeys affects blind and visually impaired people. The results of which are that blind and visually impaired people must depend on the assistance of sighted people to plan and undertake journeys that sighted people can undertake independently.
This application allows the user to familiarise themselves with a city map, locate important facilities and destinations ahead of time and plan and rehearse journeys in a city.The main features of this application  are:
Create a new virtual city-map from an existing cartographic map like the cartographic databases (TeleATlas, ESRI,..).
Add to a city-map new interest points (bus stops, special buildings,..) and create trajectories (paths) to go from one place of the map to another one.
Explore  the maps in different modes, each one of them with a different purpose
Grid Mode à get a general idea of the contents of the map
At this mode, the user will explore freely the grid of the map and he will able to ask for information about each one of the cells of the grid to get a general idea of the contents  of the map.
Basic Mode à fast exploration of the map
At this mode, the user will explore freely the basic map of the city-map getting the essential information about it: streets and special buildings.
Detailed Mode à detailed exploration of the map
At this mode, the user will explore freely the basic map with all the interest points of the city-map getting detailed information about it.
Street trajectory Mode à follow the trajectories defined by the streets
At this mode, the user will explore freely the basic map with all the interest points of the city-map and he will also to follow the trajectory defined by any of the streets of the map. This can facilitate the understanding of the organization of the streets of the map: how they intersect, its shape (linear, circular, irregular,…),…
User trajectory Mode à learn the path to go from a place to another ones
At this mode, the user will explore freely the basic map with all the interest points of the city-map and he will also to follow the trajectory defined by any of the streets of the map and/or the path to go from a place to another one of the map. This can facilitate to learn journeys at a city.
At any time the user can change the mode of exploration of the city-map depending on its preferences, and needs.
Divide the workspace in two areas to facilitate the exploration tasks. On the top the user will always explore the grid of the map. On the bottom, the user will be able to explore and interact with the map in any of the other modes.
General features inside of a haptic session: zoom, panning, get inventory of a street and/or a block, get information about the User position,..
Multiple User interfaces: keys, audio, buttons and Haptic effects (tapping and stopping).