This project intends to use artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision (CV) to develop assistive technologies for the blind. There are over two million people in the UK with sight loss and the RNIB predict that number will grow with the aging population. Age related sight loss is a particular challenge to independent living. Human and animal guides have been used for a long time to help people with sight loss, but a guide dog is not suitable for everyone and volunteer human guides are in limited supply. There are currently around 5000 guide dogs working in the UK, which is a small proportion of the total number of people with sight loss.
Recent advances in AI including computer vision and computer generated dialogue provide an opportunity to develop new assistive technology for the blind and partially sighted. Developing an AI personal assistant for the blind requires specific answers to some of the largest research questions in the field today and has the potential to improve the quality of life for the partially sighted.
The field of AI aims to endow machines with human-like intelligence. Ultimately, this will require machines that can sense, learn, reason and interact in a human-like way. This project addresses each of these key skills in a limited domain and for a specific set of goals. The project will bring together university research teams, charities for the blind, practising ophthalmologists and people with sight loss with the goal of solving research questions in AI that can be applied to improve the quality of life for end users.
To build a useful assistant for the blind requires us to solve problems in computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing, automated reasoning and human-AI interaction. In this PhD, you may choose one of those topics as your main focus or choose to work at the intersection of more than one. For example, how can we use computer generated dialogue to discuss a visual scene, or how can we use haptic devices to guide a blind person safely to grasp their glass of wine on a busy restaurant table? You will be working at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research and producing a system that could benefit millions of people.
Artificial Intelligence is an exciting and growing field, and the career opportunities for people with a PhD in the subject are both varied and well paid.