The modern world is a fast-changing place and one that has technology to thank for the many improvements to our lives. But while cutting-edge sensors and processors help drive innovations like driverless cars, visually impaired people are still having to get about with guide dogs or canes. This is set to change however because engineers have created a backpack based AI navigation system which tracks obstacles and describes them in real-time. This is naturally a major breakthrough for visually impaired people and their ability to get around safely.

How does the new AI backpack system work?

This new system is comprised of multiple components which are not heavy or bulky. In fact, most people will find they do not notice it at all when on! The whole system is made up of a fanny pack or vest plus a backpack and set of earphones. The designers have been careful to hide the sensors and electronic parts inside the various components, so they are not visible when the system is used.

But what tech makes this system work exactly? The fanny pack or vest contains a number of cameras (from small 4K ones for colour to paired stereoscopic cameras for depth) which feedback what they see to the backpack. Inside the backpack, there is a computing unit with the OAK-D AI interface installed. This interface analyses the visual data relayed back to it from the cameras. The data is then fed into the earphones via Bluetooth and the user is given an aural description of what is around them in real-time. This aural information not only tells users about their surroundings but also warns of obstacles and gives data on how close they may be.

Voice command adds to the usability

Interestingly, voice command tech also gives users the chance to ask for more information if required. This might be asking for clarification on an obstacle’s position for example. Specific locations you regularly visit can also be saved, so you can use voice command to take you back there another time. For extra usability, the backpack itself has a USB powered GPS sensor and a battery that lasts for 8 hours on a full charge. Although still early days for this project, it looks likely to be a real game-changer for visually-impaired people and their ability to get around safely.


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