Technology that helps robots navigate and interact with their environment may soon help blind people in much the same way. A new type of glasses that takes advantage of 3D navigation that some robots use are currently being designed by Edwige Pissaloux and his team from the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics located in France. The design uses a headset imaging system that takes 3D images and sends them to a handheld device that converts it to braille that the user can read which gives the blind a different way to see their environment. The headset consists of two cameras mounted on either side of the wearer which in tandem takes 3D images. A processor then analyzes the images and identifies various objects in the cameras field of view such as walls and other objects and builds a 3D map of the area. A series of accelerometers and gyroscopes monitors the user’s location and speed to determine the wearer’s relative position in relation to the 3D map. The compiled data is then sent to a tactile feedback display that produces a constant 3D map in braille form (at a rate of ten maps per-second) the gives the user a way of ‘seeing’ their environment in real-time.
The IISR team in France is also looking to combine their system with software being developed by engineers at the University of Nevada that was initially used to tell robots how far they have travelled based on its sensors (accelerometer/gyroscope). Their system uses smartphones internal sensors along with available 2D in-door maps and synthetic speech (SIRI?) to help the blind navigate. In order for the system to be effective, the phone must be calibrated to the users stride. This is done touching a series of stationary markers such as walls, hallway entrances and other obstacles. Both systems combined would greatly benefit the user’s ability to navigate just about anywhere in an urban environment. As to when this system/s will become readily available is anyone’s guess but then again ‘seeing is believing’.
It seems the scientific community is bent on technology returning sight to the blind. Read about more efforts in the area after this link.