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#TechThursday - Wearable device aims to make navigation easier for visually impaired people

September 5, 2019

Our weekly #TechThursday feature is on a new device by a China-based company that aims to improve quality of life for visually impaired people by making navigation easier. Navigation apart, the device will also make comprehensive scene perception easier.

China-based CloudMinds Technologies Inc has come up with a device that aims to make navigation easier for visually impaired people. The device uses a new deep learning-powered wearable assistive system.

The device has a powerful processor and smartphone and comes with two key components - an RGBD camera and earphone. The device will collect data from the surroundings of the user with the help of the camera which will then be fed to the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) All the information derived from this is communicated to the smart phone so the user understands this or her surroundings better and is alerted in case there are hurdles etc.

Tony Kurian, a visually impaired student at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay says the device would help address the mobility challenges the community faces.

It is ironic that after so much technological advancements, mobility of visually impaired people are still in pre-digital era. It is even today driven by the white cane even though a few replacements have been made. I have not come across any such wearable device though I know a lot of people who are attempting to create computer based smart canes and other devices like specs with camera which will have haptic feedback. So this new initiative must be lauded. - Tony Kurian, Student, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay

Makers of the device have used technology fully to ensure that users get the best experience. They even tried this in real-world to know whether the device can rightly catch obstructions and other disturbances in its path. As the next step, makers are planning to introduce sonar or bump sensors in order to ensure safety of users when they navigate through more challenging routes.

"This is a necessary technology, especially when it comes to outdoor navigation and mobility", says Maitreya Shah, a visually impaired law student and disability rights activist. "I have still have not found a perfect or comprehensive solution to the outdoor navigation. So if this technology can be addressed, it will be a good development. Limitations and the approach that they take when it comes to object recognition also matters. Since they are still working on it, let us see how well this will be implemented"

ALSO READ: #TechThursdays - Kibo XS, world's 1st intelligent personalised scanning & reading companion

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