Unseen - Digital interactions for low vision spatial engagement
Visually impaired persons possess a specific set of functional and sensory requirements for their successful existence in architectural environments. Unfortunately, a majority of our existing built infrastructure is ill-equipped to address these requirements. Both existing forms of solution for this issues, technological and architectural, are incapable of compensating for the inadequately considered design of public spaces and are subject to widespread general criticisms from the vision loss and architectural community (Human Rights Commission, 2012; Pawluk et al., 2015). This thesis recruits the native capabilities of emerging consumer-level digital technologies in order to explore new solutions to this complex problem. This research saw the proposition tested through the development of a digital platform which blended the design strategies of universal design and assistive technologies with a wide range of theoretical perspectives drawn from medical, psychological, sociological, and geolocational literature. The resulting integration generated unique forms of architectural engagement which improve the spatial comprehension abilities of the visually impaired. The early design outcomes focus on two distinct modes of engagement with a virtual, augmented environment. The first is direct bodily interaction, in which the human-scale perception of the user is bolstered through an object-detection system, which provides users with sensory cues to identify objects in their direct vicinity. The second was the development of various methods for distance-based spatial engagements. Engagement with an environment from a distance significantly expands the scale of potential spatial understanding. These methods allow users to explore spaces in a myriad of different ways, with each mechanic providing different environmental information through diverse sensory outputs. The later design work reflects on these creations and through a process of redevelopment and evaluation draws larger observations regarding the development of the tools and what they offer in terms of spatial understanding. Final conclusions from the thesis provide a framework for research which would allow for the digital adaptation of our currently unsuitable infrastructure.