by Amy Norton Healthday Reporter
The “white cane” that many blind individuals depend on for navigating the world hasn’t been upgraded in a century, but researchers are reporting progress on a “robo-cane” they hope will modernize the assistive gadget.
The prototype cane is provided with a color 3D digital camera, sensors and an “on-board” laptop designed to guide more info the consumer to a desired location—and keep away from any obstacles alongside the best way.
There are still issues to hammer out before the robotic cane is prepared for the actual world, in line with lead researcher Cang Ye, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Faculty of Engineering, in Richmond.
The device must be made light sufficient, for instance, to be user-friendly. And as soon as the technical details are refined, the cane will face the last word take a look at: acceptance among folks with visible impairments.
“Is that this a device people will actually wish to use?” Ye stated.
The hope is to make it easier for visually impaired folks to navigate large, unfamiliar indoor areas, which will be difficult sufficient for sighted people, Ye noted.
Proper now, individuals who use white canes can put know-how to use in sure methods, in response to Ye. There are telephone-primarily based apps that assist with navigation outdoors, for instance.
But massive indoor places are another matter.
In earlier versions of the robo-cane, Ye’s group tried to deal with the indoor navigation situation by incorporating constructing flooring plans. Users may inform the cane where they wished to go, and the cane—by way of voice cues and a motorized curler tip—might help guide them to their destination.
However, Ye stated, it is difficult for a blind particular person to, for example, make a very correct flip. And over a long distance, little inaccuracies could build up and finally leave the user in the incorrect location.
The most recent robo-cane— described lately within the journal IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica — seeks to deal with some shortcomings. The researchers added a small colour-depth digital camera that not only sees options like doorways, stairs and doubtlessly harmful obstacles like overhangs, but additionally determines how far away they are.
Using that info, together with data from a particular sensor, the cane’s on-board computer can guide the consumer precisely, and alert her or him to obstacles alongside the way in which.
“You can sort of view this as a combination of a robotic information canine and a cane,” Ye mentioned.
Dr. Michael Chiang is director of the U.S. National Eye Institute, the federal company that helped fund the research.
“We’ve by no means had so much know-how obtainable, and this analysis is an instance of the place we are able to match a human need with science and technology,” he stated.
It is important that research not only aim to deal with diseases, but additionally look at ways to “help the entire person,” Chiang added.
“We reside in a very visual world,” he identified. “Driving, studying, navigation—all depend on visual cues. If you can’t see nicely, it is exhausting to use many of the units that get us around in this world.”
Chiang said research just like the robo-cane challenge is about “expanding alternatives for folks with low vision.”
There isn’t any option to predict when a robotic cane could be commercially available. “One of the challenges is turning a proof-of-concept into a real-world product,” Chiang stated.
In the end, he noted, any product should be accepted by the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration as a medical system.
According to Ye, the digital elements of the robotic cane should be sturdy. The roller tip will probably wear, however Ye stated it could be changed with out the need for a whole new device.
Some points now embrace refining the cane to work effectively in indoor places with lots of individuals strolling round—like airports and subway stations—since all that motion might intervene with the system.
As soon as such a subsequent-technology gadget is out there, Ye mentioned, “it is going to be ready to check for acceptance within the visually impaired community.”
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Citation: Robotics deliver the white cane into the twenty first century (2021, September 16) retrieved 20 September 2021 from –
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