Wearable haptic/Braille guidance system for the visually impaired

MIT researchers from their CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) unit have developed a system that is designed to aid the visually impaired in accurately navigating a room, with or without the assistance of a cane. It consists of a 3-D camera worn on the abdomen, a belt that has vibrational (haptic) motors, and an electronically controlled Braille interface worn on the side of the belt. The camera is worn on the chest as the optimum and least interfering body location. The pictures taken are analyzed by algorithms that quickly identify surfaces and their orientations from the planes in the photo, including whether or not a chair is unoccupied. The belt sends different frequency, intensity, and duration tactile vibrations to the wearer to help identify nearness to obstacles or to find a chair. The Braille interface also confirms the object and location through key initials (‘c’ for chair, ‘t’ for table) and directional arrows. According to the MIT study, “In tests, the chair-finding system reduced subjects’ contacts with objects other than the chairs they sought by 80 percent, and the navigation system reduced the number of cane collisions with people loitering around a hallway by 86 percent.” MIT News, Mashable, ‘Wearable Blind Navigation’ paper Hat tip to Toni Bunting of TASK Ltd.

 

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