We are happy to present our patent-pending miniature wearable sensor device: AI4VI (Advanced I-sight for Visually Impaired). Our device can help detect obstacles beyond the range of a person’s cane or the visual range of their guide dog and provide audible and haptic alerts before these obstacles become a danger.

AI4VI uses an Arduino micro controller with an ultrasonic sensor to detect obstacles. A Piezo capsule provides the audible alert with increasing pitch as the obstacle moves closer and a vibration motor provides the haptic alert. The device is lightweight, self-contained, uses off-the-shelf batteries and can be worn on the body for an extended period of time without strain. It is hands-free and does not require a supplementary device to be worn elsewhere. Our next version will include a camera that incorporates machine vision and deep learning to sense and call out objects in real-time for comprehensive assistance.

The optional smartphone app, available for iOS and Android, connects to the device via Bluetooth for additional assistance. It was made with Xcode and Swift for iOS and MIT App Inventor for Android.

The students at the NY Institute of Special Education were very happy to try out our device and provided valuable feedback to us. Our device is very cost effective and we hope that visually impaired people all over the world can use it. Most importantly, we strongly believe that our invention will improve the health and well-being of visually impaired people for a higher quality of life.

What inspired you (or your team)?

A couple years ago, we went to a Guiding Eyes for the Blind seminar while researching on how to help animals for a project of ours. While there, we noticed that some of the visually impaired people getting guide dogs were having issues, particularly with objects at the person’s head height, which the dogs cannot see. A few months later, one of us saw a younger kid at school who was severely visually impaired. He was having trouble getting up and down the many stairs in the school building. This struck a chord with us. How could we help this kid, and many others around the world?

According to a 2015 estimate, there are 36 million completely blind people all over the world. Having a device that can sense objects around the person would help. So, after researching, we found some existing solutions, but they had drawbacks that hampered their usability in many settings. We interacted with visually impaired children at the NY Institute of Special Education so we could learn more about this problem and how we could improve on previous designs. In addition, we realized that 253 million more people around the world with severe or moderate visual impairment also face similar issues. This was what pushed us to improve on existing solutions and inspired us to design and build AI4VI.