Toyota’s horseshoe-shaped neckband may help blind people get around buildings

Toyota is working on a wearable device that will make it easier for blind people to navigate around building and indoor spaces, filling the gap between a guide dog and a cane. It’s called Project Blaid, and it’s shaped like a large horseshoe, and worn around your neck. Think of it like an oversize set of LG Tone Infinim headphones, or a motor racing—style HANS device.

The idea is to help blind people find there way around complex interior spaces more easily. Guide dogs are amazingly versatile, but they’re no good at finding the bathroom, or knowing which floor a particular shop or office is on. The cane is essential too, but again, can’t distinguish between one escalator or another.

Project Blaid has built-in cameras that identify the location, and using information from indoor mapping technology, can guide the wearer around safely and accurately. Instructions come through speakers and directions are given using vibration motors — which unlike vibrations sent through a phone or a wrist worn device, won’t be difficult to interpret. Project Blaid will react to voice instructions, or by using the onboard button controls.

Multi-level offices, shopping centers, stations, airports, and many other large public spaces are often confusing enough for sighted people to navigate, and potentially impossible for someone who is blind. Toyota’s concept wearable will make it possible for blind people to explore places previously inaccessible to them.

The prototype can be seen in the video above, and in the near future Toyota wants to add more tech to the device, including object identification, face recognition, and more extensive mapping capabilities. For Project Blaid to be truly useful and effective, detailed indoor maps will be essential. Google is just one of the companies working hard on indoor maps. Toyota’s also encouraging its own employees to create videos showing indoor features and landmarks, that will be used to program future versions of Project Blaid.