Toyota Creates Device for Blind People

Toyota recently announced its development of a wearable device engineered with the intention of enabling blind and visually impaired people to have greater mobility.

The gadget is a cushioned U shaped object worn around the neck, somewhat like a long and thin neck pillow. It is packed with sensors and cameras that, with the help of computers, can recognize surroundings and direct the wearer accordingly using speakers and vibration motors.

Toyota released these details last week, but the actual day that the product will become available has yet to be specified. That said, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has stated that it finds the creation an exciting development.

*COMPOSITE*The device owes its existence to the research and development team working on Project Blaid. According to the researchers, they’re working on plans to introduce mapping, object identification and facial recognition technologies to the device as well.

This news all came after Microsoft claimed that it was designing a headset that utilizes location and navigation data along with a network of information beacons in urban locations to verbally inform visually impaired people of where they are and how to get where they want to go in urban areas.

“This is a very exciting development within the rapidly growing field of wearable assistive technology,” stated Robin Spinks, senior strategy manager at the RNIB. “Mobility is at the heart of so much in our society and a device like Blaid could open up limitless possibilities for millions of blind and partially sighted people.”

Toyota stated during its announcement that its device was not made with the intention of replacing the aids currently available to blind and visually impaired people. The device would be complimentary to the devices already owned by any visually impaired people, and perhaps “help to fill the gaps left by canes, dogs, and basic GPS devices by providing users with more information about their surroundings.”

For example, a video that Toyota shared online demonstrated the way that the device could inform the user/wearer about the distinction between a bathroom door marked gentlemen’s toilet and another marked exit. This is a crucial detail that unfortunately no amount of hearing aids or seeing eye dogs will be able to explain to a blind or partially-sighted person.

toyotaAccording to Toyota, Project Blaid’s device is made primarily with the intention of allowing the partially-sighted or blind to navigate indoors.

“Project Blaid is one example of how Toyota is leading the way to the future of mobility, when getting around will be about more than just cars,” stated Totoya executive Simon Nagata. “We want to extend the freedom of mobility for all, no matter their circumstance, location or ability.”

Project Blaid has certainly been a team effort; Toyota apparently requested employees to submit videos of common indoor landmarks so that developers could use them to teach the device to recognize them.

Toyota is likely to also come out with an autonomous car sometime soon in the future; autonomous driving has been seen as one of the most mobilizing and empowering upcoming technologies to hit the blind and partially sighted community.

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