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'Guide vests' -- robotic navigation aids for the visually impaired
Date:5/25/2011

For the visually impaired, navigating city streets or neighborhoods has constant challenges. And most such people still must rely on a very rudimentary technologya simple caneto help them make their way through a complex world.

A group of University of Southern California engineering researchers is working to change that by developing a robot vision-based mobility aid for the visually impaired. A design first shown a year ago is now being further developed.

The need is clear. According to the World Health Organization, 39 million people worldwide are totally blind and a much larger number, 284 million people, are visually impaired. In the United States, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, 109,000 visually impaired people use long white canes to get around. Guide dogs? About 7,000 nationwide.

"There are many limitations to canes for the visually impaired, from low hanging branches to large objects," according to Grard Medioni, a professor in the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems at USC Viterbi. "We wanted to build an effective system that would provide new opportunities for the visually impaired."

Medioni and his colleagues, including James Weiland, a Viterbi School associate professor of biomedical engineering who is also a professor of ophthalmology at the USC Keck School of Medicine's Doheny Eye Institute; and Vivek Pradeep, a recent Viterbi Ph.D who is now at the Applied Sciences Group of Microsoft, have developed software that "sees" the world, and linked it to a system that provides tactile messages to alert users about objects in their paths. Pradeep won the 2010 USC Department of Biomedial Engineering Grodins Graduate Research Award and a USC Stevens Institute 'most inventive' award for his work on the system.

The system uses cameras worn on the head connected to PCs that use Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software to build maps of the environment and identify a safe
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Contact: Eric Mankin
mankin@usc.edu
213-821-1887
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2

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'Guide vests' -- robotic navigation aids for the visually impaired
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