We’re excited to welcome Brandon Biggs to the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. Brandon arrived in August to collaborate with Dr. Coughlan, Dr. Shen and Dr. Fusco to work on accessibility research and development. This collaboration started last year, when Brandon met Dr. Coughlan at the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) International Conference in Reno, Nevada. Brandon was then enrolled in a Master’s program in Inclusive Design at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada, which he completed in June.
For part of his Master’s thesis project Brandon contributed to Dr. Coughlan’s CamIO (https://www.ski.org/project/camio) project, which seeks to make physical objects accessible to blind and visually impaired users. He used CamIO in an exciting new project related to the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, California, an accessible playground designed to “remove the physical and social barriers of today’s typical playgrounds and give everyone a place to play” (http://magicalbridge.org/). For this project, he created a 3D scale map of the playground, which visitors can explore tactilely and/or visually, using CamIO to provide audio feedback about any object of interest (such as a swing set) that a person points to on the 3D map. In addition, he has devised a digital auditory map of the playground that allows anyone to explore the playground virtually from a computer or smartphone. He is also planning to make a real-time navigation app that can orient visitors to the playground, to provide even greater accessibility. Brandon won 1st place in the Innovative Designs for Accessibility Competition (https://www.univcan.ca/programs-and-scholarships/innovative-designs-accessibility-competition/) for his work on the playground project.
Brandon is also the co-founder of Sonja Biggs Educational Services, Inc. a company that provides all the components of a visually impaired program to schools in California, including teachers of the blind and visually impaired and Orientation and Mobility specialists. Brandon is interested in exploring the bridge between research and commercialization of technology to make the applications developed at SKERI accessible to the wider public.