Wearable system with 3D camera makes visually impaired people more mobile

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is doing some amazing work in terms of accessibility tools for visually impaired people. Recently, we wrote about an affordable device for translating Braille in real time, and now MIT researchers are back again with a new wearable device designed to help visually impaired people more easily navigate their environments.

The device comprises a 3D camera, a belt with five vibrational motors, and an electronically reconfigurable Braille interface to give users more information about their immediate environments.

“In a nutshell, our system scans the world and finds the walkable space and obstacles in front of the user with visual impairment,” Robert Katzschmann, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at MIT, told Digital Trends. “The user does not need to explore the space by contacting each part with a white cane. What makes the system especially exciting is that it can detect obstacles of use, such as chairs and tables. All the information is presented to the user through the use of vibrations around his or her abdomen, and through the use of an electronic Braille character display.”

Using technology similar to that employed to (literally and figuratively) drives 3D cars, the device relies on a system able to interpret 3D camera data. It involves smart image recognition algorithms to, for instance, recognize whether a chair is empty or not — rather than just writing it off as an obstacle to be avoided. Information can be conveyed to users surreptitiously, a particular motor vibrates if a person comes within two meters of an obstacle. They also receive information — such as whether it is a table or chair that has been detected — through reconfigurable Braille pads.

“Primarily, the real-world applications are day-to-day scenarios [in which a] user with visual impairment is confronted with navigating a cafeteria, finding his or her way around in a hotel lobby, or finding an empty chair in the bus or train,” Dr. Hsueh-Cheng Wang, a former postdoctoral researcher at MIT and now an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, told us.

In tests, the researchers found that the chair-finding system reduced subjects’ collisions with non-chair objects by 80 percent, while the separate navigation system reduced the number of cane collisions with people in a hallway by 86 percent.

“We plan [next] to extend this work from indoor to outdoor environments, and detect more objects a blind user wishes to interact with,” Katzschmann continued. Long term, the hope is to commercialize the technology, so as to bring it to whoever needs it.

Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Gaming

The best video games for kids, sorted by age group, for April 2019

There are a wealth of great games out there that both parents and kids can enjoy together. We compiled a list of 30-plus games across all genres that are sure to make family game night a great time.
Gaming

Hook up your stream setup at a great price with these Stream Deck alternatives

The original Elgato Stream Deck is a great device for managing your content while you stream games on Twitch, but there are plenty of Stream Deck alternatives that can do the job, as well.
Smart Home

Allergies acting up? The best air purifiers on the market can offer relief

Poor indoor air quality can cause an array of health issues over time. Luckily, these air purifiers can easily rid your home or office of unwanted allergens and contaminants to help you breathe easier when you're indoors.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.