PERCEPT Featured in the 2012 UMASS Magazine

The following text is quoted from the PERCEPT article featured in the UMass Magazine Spring 2012 Issue page 7

While trying to find his way in unfamiliar buildings, Josh Pearson, a sophomore communications major who is blind, has heard people give directions to his guid dog. Says Pearson, "Alpha is good, but he's not that good."

Pearson is helping test a new navigational system, developed by UMass Amherst Professor Aura Ganz, which will allow him and others to get around more independently. The system, called PERCEPT, uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags as audio landmarks. A user like Pearson can enter a building, locate the PERCEPT kiosk near the entrance or elevator, select a destination, and recieve directions through a cell phone or headphones. A user hears updated directions via RFID tags located throughout the building.

Testers like Pearson will be critical to the system's success, says James Schafer '10, systems engineer for PERCEPT, who has helped community members from age 19 to 80 try out the system in the Knowles Engineering Building. Schafer discovered, for example, that the pitch and pacing of the voice giving directions matters more to some users than others and that people who use canes have different navigational needs than those with guide dogs.

Professor Ganz, an expert on wireless networks who joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 1988, says her current research is focused using technology to help humanity. She would like to have PERCEPT installed in public buildings everywhere.