biped wearable applies autonomous car tech to guiding the blind
Self-driving cars already utilize cameras to avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. Well, the biped wearable device applies that same principle to guiding the blind as they walk along city streets.
Designed by a Swiss startup of the same name, biped takes the form of a harness which is worn over the shoulders, and that is wirelessly paired to a third-party set of headphones (it's also compatible with wired models). The company strongly advises using bone conduction headphones, which leave the ears open so users can still hear the sounds of the environment.
A set of 3D infrared cameras on the front of the device capture a 170-degree view of the street in front of the wearer. AI-based software running on an integrated microprocessor identifies 10 different types of both stationary and moving objects in the video feed.
By tracking the trajectory of those objects and/or the user, the system determines if a collision is imminent. If a collision is predicted, the user is warned via a directional audio signal in the headphones – if the obstacle is on the left, for example, the signal is heard in the left ear.
The system can also be used for GPS-based navigation, with a different type of signal letting users know when and in which direction to turn.
One charge of the biped's lithium battery is claimed to be good for over six hours of use. The device itself reportedly weighs less than 900 g (2 lb), and is intended to be utilized along with a white cane, not instead of one.
The biped company is currently looking for beta-testing volunteers who will provide feedback after trying the current version of the device out in real-world conditions. Those people will also be the first to have the chance to preorder the final commercialized version of the biped – pricing and availability have yet to be determined.