Atlas.txt: exploring linguistic grounding techniques for communicating spatial information to blind users

  • Kavita E. Thomas
  • Somayajulu Sripada
  • Matthijs L. Noordzij
Long Paper


This paper describes exploratory research into automatically describing geo-referenced information to blind people. The goal is to produce texts giving an overview of the spatial layout, and a central concern of such texts is that they employ an appropriate linguistic reference frame which enables blind hearers to ground the information. The research presented in this paper was based on two hypotheses: (1) directly perceivable reference frames are easier to ground and (2) spatial descriptions drawn from composite reference frame systems composed of more than one reference frame are easier to ground. An experiment exploring text comprehension on a range of texts employing different reference frame systems is presented. The main results indicate that the second hypothesis is supported. A prototype of a natural language generation system, which generates texts describing geo-referenced information from data, is described.


Blind users Geo-referenced spatial information Natural language generation Reference frame preference 



We would particularly like to thank Charles Clark from the Grampian Society for the Blind for his help in preparing and piloting the experiment. Thanks also to Hussein Patwa for piloting the experiment and for helpful feedback. Thanks to Albert Gatt for his help with SPSS. Lastly, we would like to thank EPSRC for funding the Atlas.txt project (EP/D052882/1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kavita E. Thomas
    • 1
  • Somayajulu Sripada
    • 1
  • Matthijs L. Noordzij
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computing ScienceUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenScotland, UK
  2. 2.Department of Cognitive Psychology and ErgonomicsUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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