Toyota has announced it is working on a gadget that is designed to improve the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired.
The Project Blaid device is said to fill the gaps left by canes, guide dogs and GPS devices. It uses a camera to detect the wearer’s surrounding area and communicates this information using speakers and vibration motors.
In a video of an early-stage version of the device, we see the device tell the wearer there is a toilet and emergency exit in front of him. At this point he indicates he wants to go to the toilet and it provides the correct directions.
Project Blaid lets the wearer use voice recognition and physical buttons to control the device and it is hoped future versions will include integrated mapping, object identification and facial recognition to paint a more detailed picture.
The horseshoe-shaped design of the device is worn around the shoulders, making it hands-free. Bluetooth functionality, meanwhile, is said to provide smartphone functionality although Toyota is yet to elaborate on what functionality this entails.
Toyota engineers have been working with the Toyota Partner Robot Group on the project for four years, in addition to receiving help from leading organisations and members of the blind community.
Toyota published a video of the device being tested by a young blind man, who now has no light or colour perception after losing his sight. In other words, everything is pitch black.
“The ability to just get up and leave whenever you want, to wherever you want would be awesome. Blaid could change my life,” he explained, adding that he hopes it can improve the mobility for as many people as possible.
Toyota Partner Robotics manager Doug Moore added: “Toyota is about more than just the great cars and trucks we build. We believe we have a role to play in addressing mobility challenges, including helping people with limited mobility to do more.”
He added: “We believe this project has the potential to enrich the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired.”
Beta testing of Project Blaid will begin soon. We have asked Toyota if it will ever reach production.