A team of researchers at Intel has developed a concept that allows a visually impaired person to move around the street alone, without the assistance of a dog or a cane. Embedded in a simple backpack, this system helps the person to move forward and warns them of possible dangers to avoid by simple vocal indications.
The project is helmed by Jagadish K. Mahendran, a developer at Intel specialized in artificial intelligence. He and his team have succeeded in developing a device that fits into a backpack and a fanny pack, allowing any visually impaired person to walk in the street with minimized risk.
Composed of cameras, sensors and a GPS, the equipment takes charge of analyzing in real-time the environment and indicating to the visually impaired person, via a vocal assistant, how to move. At this stage, this system can recognize obstacles on the route, objects and people in movement, as well as road signs.
Bluetooth headsets allow the user to interact with the system via simple voice commands and requests. In return, the system tells them, through a synthesized voice, whether they should stop, deviate, turn right or left, etc. It also tells them if there are stairs or pedestrian crossings ahead.
To achieve this, a Luxonis OAK-D mini camera is attached to a vest or fanny pack and connected to the computer unit in the backpack. Analyzed in real-time, these images provide precise information on the depth of field and the various elements that make up the pedestrian’s environment.
This prototype could offer incredible possibilities for many blind or visually impaired people who wish to be able to move around independently one day. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 285 million visually impaired people in the world.