For those with impaired vision or reduced peripheral vision, navigating unfamiliar territory can bring any number of hazards and challenges. In an attempt to reduce these pedestrians’ risk of injury, researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston have developed a wearable, video camera device that alerts users of unsafe obstacles.
What makes the device unique from other alert devices for the visually impaired is that it doesn’t just beep when there are objects in the vicinity or when other people walk by. Rather, it beeps when it becomes clear that the person’s path could intersect with an object and is triggered based on the person’s walking speed or estimated collision time.
Gizmag reported that the researchers tested the device on 25 patients by having them walk around a 135-foot looped obstacle course that included passing pedestrians and 46 stationary obstacles, arbitrarily placed from floor to head level. For those wearing the device (which included patients who had tunnel vision or hemianopia, a type of blindness that affects more than half of the vision field), collisions were reduced by 37 percent with the patients’ walking speeds changing only slightly, Gizmag said. Additionally, none of the patients experienced more collisions using the device than when not using it.
According to the study’s senior author, Gang Luo, Ph.D., an associate scientist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Schepens Eye Research Institute and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, the next step will involve a clinical trial to test the device’s effectiveness when a patient goes through his daily routine.
Learn more about the wearable device for the visually impaired in the video below:
Top photo credit: Peter Mallen, Massachusetts Eye and Ear