Toyota developing wearable device to improve mobility for the blind

It will be worn around the shoulders, and contain cameras that monitor the user’s surroundings and communicate information through speakers and vibration motors, the company says.  Also planned are object identification and facial recognition technologies.  And the device will be compatible with smartphones thanks to Bluetooth, according to the initiative’s website.

The company is marketing so-called Project BLAID as an extension of its core mission.  “Project BLAID is one example of how Toyota is leading the way to the future of mobility, when getting around will be about more than just cars,” Simon Nagata, the chief administrative officer of Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement.  “We want to extend the freedom of mobility for all, no matter their circumstance, location or ability.”

Apparently, Toyota and the Toyota Partner Robot Group have been working with blind patients for four years in order to understand the needs of the community.  Beta testing of the wearable device will begin soon.

Others are seeking to use sensors to assist the blind as well. With the help of a government subsidy thousands of blind Indians are using the SmartCane, developed by engineer Rohan Paul, now a postdoctoral fellow at MIT.  The cane comes with an ultrasonic sensor that detects upper-body obstacles.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 08 MAR 2016; Varun Saxena

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