Fashionable, robotic ‘white cane’ brings navigation help to the Twenty first century

Examine creator Lingqiu Jin exams the robotic cane. Credit score: Cang Ye, VCU

Outfitted with a shade 3D digital camera, an inertial measurement sensor, and its personal on-board laptop, a newly improved robotic cane might supply blind and visually impaired customers a brand new method 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 bins, furnishings, and overhangs. Improvement of the system was co-funded by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being’s Nationwide Eye Institute (NEI) and the Nationwide Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Particulars of the up to date design had been printed within the journal IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

“Many individuals within the visually impaired neighborhood think about the white cane to be their finest and most purposeful navigational device, regardless of it being century-old know-how,” stated Cang Ye, Ph.D., lead creator of the research and professor of laptop science on the Faculty of Engineering on the Virginia Commonwealth College, Richmond. “For sighted individuals, applied sciences like GPS-based functions have revolutionized navigation. We’re concerned with creating a tool that closes lots of the gaps in performance for white cane customers.”

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 might inform the cane whether or not she or he wished to go, and the cane—by a mix of auditory cues and a robotic rolling tip—might information the person to their vacation spot. However when used over lengthy distances, the inaccuracies within the person’s location might construct up, ultimately leaving the person at an incorrect location.

To assist appropriate this challenge, Ye and colleagues have added a shade depth digital camera to the system. Utilizing infrared gentle, very like a cell phone’s front-facing digital camera, the system can decide the gap 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 info, together with knowledge from an inertial sensor, the cane’s onboard laptop can map the person’s exact location to the prevailing architectural drawing or floorplan, whereas additionally alerting the person to obstacles of their path.

“Whereas some mobile phone apps may give individuals auditory navigation directions, when going round a nook for instance, how have you learnt you have turned simply the correct amount?” stated Ye. “The rolling tip on our robotic cane can information you to show at simply the precise level and precisely the precise variety of levels, whether or not it is 15 levels or 90. This model can even warn you to overhanging obstacles, which a typical white cane can’t.”

There are nonetheless a couple of kinks to be labored out earlier than the system will likely be market-ready—it is nonetheless too heavy for normal use, for instance, and Ye’s staff is searching for a method 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 might present a key independence device for the blind and visually impaired, with out dropping the traits of the white cane which have stood the take a look at of time.


Growing a device to extend mobility for the blind


Extra info:
He Zhang et al, An RGB-D Digital camera Primarily based Visible Positioning System for Assistive Navigation by a Robotic Navigation Support, IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica (2021). DOI: 10.1109/JAS.2021.1004084

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Nationwide Eye Institute


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