AI enables play and discovery for the visually-impaired

  • Thursday 29, August 2019 09:23 AM
Sharjah24 – Reuters: When a blind 13-year-old Matthew Shifrin built a LEGO model by himself for the first time, he realised he needed to help other blind children do the same.
Shifrin, who was born blind, built a miniature medieval castle with the help of his friend Lilya near Boston, Massachusetts. She had painstakingly written out Braille building instructions for him to follow.

Later she even wrote instructions for Shifrin to build a model of the Tower of London. The original instructions book was 850 pages long.

"After that first LEGO set that I built, I realised that I could not keep this to myself. I had to give this to other kids. Blind kids deserve this much more than I did," Shifrin said.

After Lilya passed away in 2017 he set up a website where blind people could access Braille building instructions for LEGO model kits, legofortheblind.com.

He then linked up with LEGO. Inspired by his website, they looked to artificial intelligence to get more blind and visually-impaired people using LEGO.

The Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence developed some AI software which translated the building instructions into text. These instructions can be read by Braille reader devices and translated into voice commands for smart phones.

LEGO is piloting the project between August 28 and Dec 31 featuring instructions for four sets. LEGO users are downloading them at legoaudioinstructions.com.

Thirteen-year-old blind child Alex, building LEGO at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, said it was "awesome".