It’s frustrating to see so many wearable innovations without more devoted to providing solutions for the disabled, which is why MIT’s new prototype for the visually impaired is more than just a little exciting.
A team of researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have come up with a wearable system that helps the visually impaired navigate their environment.
The system consists of a 3D depth-sensing camera, electronically refreshable Braille pads that display symbols such as “c” for chair and “t” for table, and a belt that vibrate more as the wearable gets close to an obstacle.
A demonstration video posted earlier this shows a wearer using the device to locate a chair without a cane (as well as with a cane, which allows the visually impaired person to map the environment even faster), locate a bench, avoid a construction barrier, and walk flawlessly through a maze without a cane.
“Having something that didnt infringe on their other senses was important,” said Robert Katzschmann, one of the researchers in a statement on MIT’s website.
“We didn’t want to have audio; we didn’t want to have something around the head, vibrations on the neck all of those things, we tried them out, but none of them were accepted. We found that the one area of the body that is the least used for other senses is around your abdomen.”
And while this is still just a prototype that’s not available for commercial use, the team is working on an outdoor-friendly version that uses a stereo vision camera and a larger library of object recognition beyond just tables and chairs, which could soon make walking a busy city street a whole lot easier for the visually impaired.