No longer science fiction as we may soon have devices that could help the bling navigate without the help of a cane. have just developed a new navigation system for blind people. The cameras built into the glasses detect obstacles and signal the wearer through a haptic feedback sleeve.
Navigation is one of the most difficult tasks for people with visual impairments. Several research projects have tried to provide help through technology, but nothing has yet been able to replace the white cane. But a new device developed by researchers at the Technical University of Munich could change all that.
The invention consists of two components. The first is a pair of 3D-printed “glasses.” Like the motion tracking systems in virtual reality headsets, they use cameras to capture a stereoscopic image of the environment to build a 3D map. The researchers used an Intel RealSense D415 camera, which has the advantage of being able to capture infrared light, allowing the system to work at night.
A haptic feedback sleeve for a hands-free system
The glasses are connected to a vibrating sleeve. Thanks to a grid of 25 actuators, it signals the presence of an obstacle, indicating its location and distance to the user. The user can thus navigate hands-free. The system has two modes of operation: indoors with a maximum detection distance of three meters, and outdoors with a minimum distance of two meters to detect obstacles at a distance. The device can thus act as a complement to the cane.
The volunteers who tested the system were able to navigate correctly up to 98.6 percent of the time with just one of the motors vibrating, and up to 70 percent of the time in more complex situations with multiple haptic feedback. The researchers plan to continue improving their invention and hope in particular to integrate object recognition to generate paths that can help navigate in wide-open spaces.