Outfitted with a shade 3D digicam, an inertial measurement sensor, and its personal on-board pc, a newly improved robotic cane may supply blind and visually impaired customers a brand new strategy to navigate indoors. When paired with a constructing’s architectural drawing, the system can precisely information a person to a desired location with sensory and auditory cues, whereas concurrently serving to the person keep away from obstacles like packing containers, furnishings, and overhangs. Growth of the system was co-funded by the Nationwide Institutes of Health’s Nationwide Eye Institute (NEI) and the Nationwide Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Particulars of the up to date design have been revealed within the journal IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.
“Many people in the visually impaired community consider the white cane to be their best and most functional navigational tool, despite it being century-old technology,” stated Cang Ye, Ph.D., lead creator of the examine and professor of pc science on the Faculty of Engineering on the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. “For sighted people, technologies like GPS-based applications have revolutionized navigation. We’re interested in creating a device that closes many of the gaps in functionality for white cane users.”
Whereas there are cell phone-based functions that may present navigation help—serving to blind customers keep inside crosswalks, for instance—massive areas inside buildings are a serious problem, particularly when these areas are unfamiliar. Earlier variations of Ye’s robotic cane started tackling this downside by incorporating constructing floorplans; the person may inform the cane whether or not she or he wished to go, and the cane—by a mixture of auditory cues and a robotic rolling tip—may information the person to their vacation spot. However when used over lengthy distances, the inaccuracies within the person’s location may construct up, ultimately leaving the person at an incorrect location.
To assist appropriate this situation, Ye and colleagues have added a shade depth digicam to the system. Utilizing infrared light, very similar to a cell phone’s front-facing digicam, the system can decide the space between the cane and different bodily objects, together with the ground, options like doorways and partitions, in addition to furnishings and different obstacles. Utilizing this data, together with information from an inertial sensor, the cane’s onboard pc can map the person’s exact location to the prevailing architectural drawing or floorplan, whereas additionally alerting the person to obstacles of their path.
“While some cell phone apps can give people auditory navigation instructions, when going around a corner for example, how do you know you’ve turned just the right amount?” stated Ye. “The rolling tip on our robotic cane can guide you to turn at just the right point and exactly the right number of degrees, whether it’s 15 degrees or 90. This version can also alert you to overhanging obstacles, which a standard white cane cannot.”
There are nonetheless a couple of kinks to be labored out earlier than the system will probably be market-ready—it is nonetheless too heavy for normal use, for instance, and Ye’s group is on the lookout for a strategy to slim down the system. Nonetheless, with the flexibility to simply swap between its automated mode and an easier, non-robotic “white cane mode,” Ye believes this system may present a key independence software for the blind and visually impaired, with out shedding the traits of the white cane which have stood the check of time.
He Zhang et al, An RGB-D Digicam Primarily based Visible Positioning System for Assistive Navigation by a Robotic Navigation Help, IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica (2021). DOI: 10.1109/JAS.2021.1004084
National Eye Institute
Trendy, robotic ‘white cane’ brings navigation help to the Twenty first century (2021, September 8)
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