AU developing new technology to help visually impaired

It's hard enough for sighted people to move around an unfamiliar place, and for the blind it's that more difficult.

To help, researchers at Auburn University are preparing to build a prototype Extended Mobility System that will help navigate the visually impaired to desired locations.

"What we are going to be doing is taking additional sensor, trying to help them make their way around cities much easier," explains Christopher Rose, AU graduate student and part of the research team.

The team is investigating the use of cameras, inertial sensors and communications devices to track the movements of visually impaired.

GPS data, as well as wireless information will be integrated into a device to guide users to their destinations.

"We're working with the National Federation of the Blind and they're actually the ones who will be collaborating with us by helping find blind individuals identify problems, find out what helps them and what doesn't help them. Really make a project for blind people instead of us just coming up with a solution that many will not want to ever use," says Rose.

The system is under design now, but could possible take shape as an ankle bracelet containing inertial sensors or a camera positioned in a pair of glasses,

In the past, commercial products have been created primarily using a GPS with voice over communication, but these products suffer from poor positioning, meaning they cannot tell the difference between the road and a sidewalk or going into a right or wrong building.

"Say you're on a roller coaster and you close your eyes, you can still kind of feel how you're moving on the roller coaster based on what your inner ear is telling you. So using those kinds of sensors in addition to a vision navigation system, we're using that to get a better positioning system," explains Rose.

Officials say a prototype device is expected to be available in 2015.

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