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April 25, 2013
By Abbie Walker
Innovative research for individuals who are blind has helped Eelke Folmer receive national recognition and has now led to a $25,000 award from Microsoft Research.
Folmer, associate professor in human-computer interaction with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, recently received the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF) Award to help fund his work on ASK, an assistive spatial knowledge navigator for people who are blind.
Folmer's ASK is a research project that seeks to leverage recent advances in wearable depth-sensing technology (Kinect) with machine learning techniques to create the assistive navigation tool. ASK can memorize the location of everyday objects and answer basic spatial questions using speech.
ASK aims to reduce the amount of memorization that blind people are required to perform and may help complete everyday tasks that are difficult to perform using existing assistive technologies, such as finding an object, or understanding what is in the user's visible field of view. ASK could provide greater independence to users who are blind and improve their quality of life.
This year, 16 of 141 proposals for research awards were given by Microsoft Research. Each award supported academic research in software engineering technologies, tools, practices and teaching methods.
The aim of the Microsoft SEIF award is to advance software engineering applications and tools by providing funding to researchers who have state of the art ideas. Projects involving devices, services, cloud-computing and applications based on natural user interface are top priority.
Abbie Walker is a graduate writer for the University Media Relations department