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Robotic Guide Dogs Developed by US Scientists to Help Visually Impaired People on Streets

Video grab of the robotic guide dog.
(Credit: Twitter/ New Scientist)

Video grab of the robotic guide dog. (Credit: Twitter/ New Scientist)

To save on the time and effort required to train a guide dog, scientists have come up with a novel idea and created a robotic alternative.

Guide dogs could be replaced by four-legged bots in the near future. US scientists have developed a four-legged robot similar to a guide dog. It is developed to provide assistance to blind people to safely walk through narrow passages and when around obstacles. To save on the time and effort required to train a guide dog, scientists have come up with a novel idea and created a robotic alternative. The robot was designed and programmed by lead researcher and roboticist Zhongyu Li and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley.

They named the robot’s design a Mini Cheetah, as reported by Daily Mail. It is powered by a laser-ranging system to map out its surroundings and a camera to track the human it is guiding. Equipped with a leash, it provides better lead around tight turns similar to any canine.

It works on first feeding the destination on its system to let the machine map out a simple route. Then, it adapts its course as per the obstacles and the user’s movements. Li and his colleagues have successfully tested the mechanism of the bots with three blindfolded people around the obstacle path and enclosed narrow section less than a meter wide. The tight turn aimed at testing the machine’s ability to divert without keeping the belt tight at all times as the track was too narrow to fit the turning circle of both the robot dog and the handler together.

Researchers have created a robotic helper for people who are blind. It’s not as cuddly as a typical guide dog, but could be quicker and cheaper to train. https://t.co/sWwRjiJ55Z pic.twitter.com/xVIF7fj1ok— New Scientist (@newscientist) April 5, 2021

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According to Li, these types of robots are scalable and have immense scope in near future. He says that these will definitely be feasible and lucrative alternatives to help and serve people when hardware will become affordable.

The team envisaged that in the future it could also be updated to sync with computer or smartphone calendars so that it could perform various other functions like automatically taking people to their appointments by means of GPS navigation.

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first published:April 07, 2021, 21:00 IST