New Ph.D. offer: “Optimizing newspaper design for low vision people”

The Biovision Lab is seeking to recruit a highly-qualified Ph.D. candidate to join our dynamic, multi-disciplinary research team, whose primary goal is to study vision impairment from theoretical and applied perspectives. You will be based in Sophia-Antipolis on the French Riviera, in the Inria Research center. In this Ph.D., you will be part of a pluridisciplinary academic consortium, with two supervisors bringing their complementary expertise (Pierre Kornprobst from Biovision Lab and Dorian Mazauric from ABS Lab). Overall, this project will foster promising perspectives for your career, notably in the fields of combinatorial optimization, in academia but also in industry where a vast range of problems requires such skills.


TITLE: Optimizing newspaper design for low vision people

GENERAL GOAL: This Ph.D. project aims at developing novel solutions to facilitate the accessibility of newspapers for low vision people while preserving the design of the print edition. The literature about packing problems and newspaper design will serve as the foundation for this work.

CONTEXT: Among retinal diseases, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD, “DMLA” in French) is the primary cause of visual deficiency in industrialized countries. This pathology destroys the macula (the area surrounding the fovea), causing central vision loss. It is considered an incurable disease and concerns 1 in 3 people after 75 years old. Global estimations show a rapid increase in the absolute number of people with AMD, from 150 million people in 2014 to 288 million people in 2040 (projection from [1]).

PROBLEM: Reading is amongst the highest need reported by AMD patients. Issues are a distortion of letters and lines, loss of visual acuity, and central blind zone (scotoma) masking small letters and words. As a consequence, while people living with AMD can still perform a variety of other daily living activities, losing this ability to read with the evolution of the vision pathology brings them frustration, anxiety, and nervosity, and can lead to both strong psychological and cognitive consequences. In particular, newspapers pose a unique challenge due to a number of reasons, particularly (1) complex design layout, making it hard to navigate with traditional hand-held magnifiers (local/global navigation problem), (2) temporal nature, which does not allow extra time for publishers to produce accessible versions, and (3) non-standardised formatting between different publishers, which poses challenges to develop automated approaches that adapt the content with more accessible design.

STATE-OF-THE-ART: The emergence of the digital form of information has brought new opportunities in terms of customizations for people with low vision [2]. Two solutions are now available. The first solution is to read the electronic version of the print edition on digital devices such as e-readers or iPads. The main advantages are to be close to the original reading experience (e.g., familiarity in design, clear overview of the content, news valuation) and to offer use intuitive touch screen gestures for zooming and reading (e.g., pinch-to-zoom). One major drawback is related to the navigation at both global (e.g., between articles, sections, columns, media content) and local (e.g., line to line) levels. The second solution is to read the online edition on a variety of screen sizes thanks to responsive design. It has several advantages related to technical features (e.g., hyperlinks, the possibility of searching, tuning parameters of the reading display) and to the content itself (e.g., continuous updates). One major drawback is the lack of design: Websites mostly present news in a linear fashion, thus missing the editorial organization found in printed newspapers.
DESCRIPTION OF THE WORK: What is currently missing is a solution that transposes the design from the printed edition and the functionality from the online version to make a synthesis based on usability, taking into account reader’s visual capabilities. This is what this Ph.D. is about. The approach that we envision raises a new kind of packing problem, which will be the starting point of the Ph.D.: Packing problems are a class of optimization problems in mathematics that involve attempting to pack objects together into one or several containers respecting some constraints, and optimizing some functions [3]. After studying its complexity (e.g., NP-hardness, APX-hardness), new algorithms will be developed to solve the problem in practice, targeting a low computational cost. From the abstract problem definition, the next challenges will be to incorporate progressively constraints coming from newspaper design and aesthetics [5,6] but also, and very importantly, constraints related to visual capabilities of the readers. The validation of the resulting designs will be conducted with low vision patients through a rigorous evaluation of reading performance and user’s experience questionnaire. This will be done in collaboration with two clinical centers (CHU Pasteur in Nice and Clinique Monticelli Paradis in Marseille).

SUPERVISION: This Ph.D. will be co-supervised by P. Kornprobst (Inria, Biovision Lab, low vision) and D. Mazauric (Inria, ABS Lab, algorithmics).

POTENTIAL IMPACT ON THE FELLOW CAREER: This Ph.D. has the potential to open promising career perspectives for the candidate who will (1) acquire high expertise on combinatorial optimization problems, (2) work on a multidisciplinary project with contributions in computer science and low-vision research. For all the reasons mentioned above, this Ph.D. will be of high value in academia. Besides, all the acquired skills paired with a high potential for transfer of the work done will be of great interest outside academia, notably because packing problems have a lot of applications in industry.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
[1] Bourne, R., et al. (2017) Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Global Health, Volume 5, Issue 9, e888 – e897
[2] Legge, G. E. (2016). Reading Digital with Low Vision, Visible Lang. 2016 Aug; 50(2): 102–125.
[3] Lodi, A., et al. (2002). Two-dimensional packing problems: A survey. European Journal of Operational Research, 141(2):241 – 252, 2002
[4] Vazirani, V. V. (2001). Approximation algorithms. Springer.
[5] D. Gautier and C. Gautier (2017) Design, Typography etc.: A Handbook. Niggli Editions
[6] Thomas Strecker, Sahin Albayrak (2002). Adaptive User-Centric Layout of News with Aesthetic Constraints. Information Management SPIM 2010, 8.

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