Week 2 (June 1-5)

This week has been an exciting mix of hands-on work as well as some more literature review. This time, however, the literature was from a previous graduate student who was working with the deaf-blind community in Seattle in 2017-2018. I read through notes from a workshop conducted in Fall 2017 centered on spatial awareness and tactile mapping practices for deaf-blind people, as well as follow up survey responses and interviews in order to gain local contextual awareness for the project. I also read some of the articles that this graduate student had previously collected.

Once I felt confident I had amassed a comprehensive collection of notes, I began to parse through them; specifically, I sought to identify features of the built environment that were important for people with visual impairments to know about if they are navigating the area for the first time. I ended up identifying 65 of these features, which range from concrete features, such as the presence of a curb ramp to more abstract features such as the crowdedness and noisiness of a sidewalk. For each feature, I evaluated five attributes: (1) how easy it would be to create a tag (on OpenStreetMap) for this attribute, or if the tag already existed; (2) how easy it would be to collect information about this attribute; (3) how easy it would be to crowdsource information about this attribute; (4) how easy it would be to represent this feature on a map; and (5) how easy it would be to obtain pedestrian’s preferences about this attribute. This evaluation will help when thinking through which attributes could be feasibly integrated into AccessMap within the duration of the DREU experience.

I also familiarized myself with the OpenStreetMaps application and started to add relevant pedestrian features to the map of my hometown. This was really helpful, because it allowed me to gain intuition about how to classify and represent different features. The edited OSM data can then be used to create a pedestrian map of my town in order to test my cost function in an area I am familiar with and can collect current data about as the summer progresses.

Finally, with the help of my mentor, I finalized my official project proposal, which will serve as an important document to return to in order to ensure I am keeping the larger ideas of the project in mind as I begin to embark on smaller, more technical tasks. Next week, I have another research opportunity that will be starting, so I will transition to working part-time on this project. Now that I have identified important features of the built environment, I will choose which ones are most important to integrate into the application. Using these attributes, I will get started on the cost function, using a small network to test it on. Once the cost function is completed, I will create a detailed plan for the rest of the summer where each week revolves around an attribute or two to add into the data schema in order to integrate the cost function into the existing codebase.

Written on June 5, 2020