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Belt Warns Visually Impaired about Obstacles

The Kinecthesia belt has sensors and a series of motors that send vibrations to the wearer to indicate the position of obstacles. Larry Greenemeier reports

For years cars have had warning systems to let drivers know when they're about to back into something. What if a similar type of obstacle avoidance technology could be used to help the visually impaired?

That's what two University of Pennsylvania researchers are trying to develop. They've created a prototype warning system for walkers called Kinecthesia. It's a belt loaded with the following: a Microsoft Kinect infrared camera and sensors, battery pack and six vibration motors placed in the left, right and middle of the belt.

When worn the Kinect detects obstacles in your path. If the obstacle is to your left, the motors on the left side of the belt will vibrate. As you get closer to the object the vibrations get stronger.

The researchers want to make the belt as small and affordable as possible so that they can better serve the 285 million visually impaired people around the world. The technology might also be useful for firefighters, miners and anyone else working in low visibility areas in need of some good vibrations.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.

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