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Google Is Making Technology to Help Visually Impaired Play Sports and Go on Runs Safely

Image credits: Screengrab of video.

Image credits: Screengrab of video.

The Guideline project uses machine learning and requires a smartphone, headphones and a guideline painted on the ground in order to enable a user to follow a fixed itinerary.

Google Research engineers are full of ideas; one of their latest aims to make it possible for blind people to play sports and run outside safely.

In partnership with the CEO of an American guide dog-training school, they are working on an ambitious project, called Guideline, which consists of guiding visually impaired people using the camera on their smartphone.

The Guideline project uses machine learning and requires a smartphone, headphones and a guideline painted on the ground in order to enable a user to follow a fixed itinerary.

For this to function, a yellow line has to be pre-painted on the path to follow. The athlete is then equipped with a smartphone, placed around their waist. The smartphone's camera approximates the user's position and delivers audio feedback via headphones to help keep them on the guideline.

While this project is still in a test phase, and the AI used has yet to deal with vagaries of the weather or obstacles that may crop up along the way, a first video posted by Google shows impressive results, empowering and freeing visually impaired walkers and runners.

In the future, this technology could go beyond sporting activities and be adapted to everyday outings, and in the long run, could even replace guide dogs, as long as communities implement painted guidelines and the users stick to following them.