Science & Technology

Scientists devise a self-navigating wand for the visually impaired

Credit: Andrew Brodhead

Personal navigation has come a long way, as asking strangers for directions was one of the best ways to reach an unknown destination. With GPS and the World Wide Web out of the box, finding your way has never been easier, even when traveling abroad. However, visually impaired people cannot enjoy the benefits of this amazing technology, and many are limited to wands that have undergone major changes in design and functionality.

Researchers at Stanford University want to change this paradigm head-on. Inspired by the same obstacle detection technology that self-driving cars can drive on crowded roads without human input, researchers are high-tech to help visually impaired people navigate the environment as well. However, I devised an affordable cane.

The augmented wand has many sensors and is mainly made of off-the-shelf parts. Navigation software is based on open source code.In fact, anyone can assemble their own version of this extended wand like this: The study comes with a list of parts Soldering instructions, probably for friends and relatives.

“I wanted something more user-friendly than a white wand with a sensor,” says Patrick Slade, a graduate research assistant at the Stanford Institute for Intelligent Systems. “Something that not only tells you that there is an object in your way, but also tells you what that object is and helps you navigate it.”

Credit: Andrew Brodhead

This isn’t the first smart wand, but it’s probably the most versatile and affordable on the market right now. Other wands with similar functionality weigh up to 50 pounds (22 kg) and can cost at least $ 6,000, according to the authors of the study. In contrast, the Stanford University design weighs only 3 pounds (1.3 kg) and costs $ 400 for parts.

The component includes the LIDAR sensor, a 3D laser scanning technology first developed in the early 1960s for the detection of submarines from aircraft. It works by generating a series of laser pulses that hit different surfaces and obstacles. By calculating the time it takes for a laser pulse to reflect back to its light source, the wand provides real-time information about various stationary or moving obstacles directly in front of it.

An electric omnidirectional wheel attached to the tip of the cane is in constant contact with the ground, providing live feedback to the cane user.

Other sensors include GPS, accelerometers, magnetometers, and gyroscopes (a type of hardware found in smartphones) that monitor and track the geographic location, velocity, and orientation of the cane.

All of these sensors provide real-time information to the AI ​​that controls the cane’s robotic actuators, automatically guiding the user towards their goals while navigating obstacles. For example, visually impaired users may set their destination to a convenience store or a local coffee shop. On the way there, the wand gently pulls to the left or right or moves in small increments, allowing the user to move around obstacles.

The wand was tested in the field by both visually impaired and blindfolded visible volunteers. They had to use an extended wand to navigate the corridor and cross outdoor waypoints.

“We want human control, but we provide the right level of gentle guidance to get where we want to go as safely and efficiently as possible,” said an associate professor of aerospace engineering. And an aircraft collision avoidance system.

Compared to traditional white canes, the enhanced cane allowed volunteers with visual impairments to walk about 20 percent faster. Blindfolded, visible volunteers walked nearly 35% faster than when using a white cane.

However, while these results are impressive, they could be even better. Researchers warn that augmented sugar cane is still a very ongoing task and wants to carry out more safety tests and experiments before it is ready for commercial release.

Enhanced sugar cane was listed in the journal Science robotics..

Scientists devise a self-navigating wand for the visually impaired Scientists devise a self-navigating wand for the visually impaired

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