Every year more than 10% of visually impaired people suffer from head bumps or tripping injuries more than once a month that critically impacts their lifestyle. Our team believes that a significant proportion of such injuries are avoidable if visually impaired person can be alerted to obstacles. People with guide dogs can also benefit from this invention as guide dogs have difficulty in seeing obstacles above shoulder height.
Our team, with the help of a mentor, Sharath Pankanti, a technology expert who works at IBM Research, designed and built a wearable device called ADVISE – Assistance for Dog & Visually Impaired SubjEcts.
Our initial prototype was built using a Kinect sensor attached to a laptop to demonstrate the capability. We are working on a second prototype that reduces the size, more energy efficient, and works both indoors and outdoors. ADVISE can identify the size, location and number of the obstacles and provides an audible or haptic feedback to the person. Our solution can be built at a cost of less than $500 that is less expensive compared to the medical and other costs incurred from the injuries sustained.
We collaborated with Mr. Ben Cawley, the inventor of a harness for running with guide dogs and director at Guiding Eyes for the Blind organization to understand the problems and review our proposed designs. We also demonstrated the prototype to the Mobility Instructors & Visually Impaired students at New York School of Special Education and received very positive feedback.
What inspired me/us? *
It all started when we realized that we wanted to do something with dogs. So we visited animal shelters, veterinarians, guide dog trainers, as well as reading research papers, articles, and other sources online. We ended up focusing on guide dogs because this problem really intrigued us: If seeing eye dogs are used to avoid obstacles, would they be able to see objects that are at a person’s head height? We noticed that more than 10% of visually impaired people tend to suffer from tripping injuries and head bumps every month. Since this problem negatively affected visually impaired people’s lifestyle, we built a (prototype) wearable device that solves the issue.