Audio user interface for sight-impaired shoppers to aid supermarket shopping

Ennair, R. (2007). Audio user interface for sight-impaired shoppers to aid supermarket shopping (BSc (Hons) Computing Dissertation). Edinburgh Napier University (Kerridge, J.).



Shopping for groceries is an important activity in our lives. However, blind and partially sighted people can find this practice problematic because guide dogs and other traditional navigation aids are not useful in supermarkets. Guide dogs for example would not know what product the customer would like to buy and supermarkets are not equipped with tactile maps and do not have Braille writing on signs and products.

This report describes the research and implementation of a prototype for an audio user interface for sight impaired shoppers to aid their supermarket shopping. The audio interface gives shoppers verbal directions to products from their shopping list on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) device using headphones. The instructions are transferred over a wireless network from a remote server to the shopper’s PDA.

The report describes the design, development and evaluation of the prototype including the technologies used. The guidance instructions software is implemented in Groovy, this software queries the database for the customer’s shopping list and directions to products. The speech synthesizer is passed instructions returned from the database to synthesize into speech. The synthesized speech is produced in the form of audio files which are then converted into audio bytes using Java. These audio bytes are sent over the wireless network from the remote server to the customer’s PDA. The process is handled by Java Communicating Sequential Processes (JCSP) technology which is capable of running processes concurrently.

The PDA receives the audio files in the form of bytes which are then converted back into audio files and played using software written in Java 1.3. These files are stored in the PDA memory and can be replayed when needed. After the customer is finished shopping, the audio files are automatically deleted from the memory of the PDA.
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