New device helps the visually impaired “see”
A new system promises to help the visually impaired see through infrared technology, according to a paper submitted for peer review and produced by the Technological University of Munich, Germany.
The device consists of a 3D-printed glasses frame and a 3D camera with haptic feedback, as well as a bracelet that has 25 actuators. These actuators project a kind of “grid” capable of determining the proximity and orientation of objects around the user.
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Roughly speaking, it is not “seeing” in the sense of seeing the shapes of objects, but “seeing” in order to perceive distances and depths. And the advantage of using infrared technology is that the device in question works even in the dark.
“Even in current years, visually impaired people face a constant challenge to see and navigate,” said Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan, co-authors of the study. “The most common tool available to this audience is the cane. While it allows good detection of objects in the area immediately around its users, it lacks the ability to find obstacles further away.”
The actuators are the key to the success of this experiment: they vibrate according to the distance from a detected obstacle. This vibration projects the “image” onto the glasses, where the camera is installed. The closer the user gets to the obstacle, the stronger the vibrations.
According to the paper , in voluntary tests, the system exhibited 98% accuracy. The tests involved five volunteers, all of whom successfully navigated, without error, a route with obstacles positioned in their paths. Not only did no one make any mistakes, but after two or three attempts, the volunteers began to walk the path faster.
There is also the added benefit of the glasses not needing headphones or headsets. In other words, it doesn't have to impede other senses – like hearing or smell – to work.
The paper in question is in pre-publication on arXiv, awaiting scientific review.
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