FOR centuries, canes have served blind and partially sighted people well by giving them a means to negotiate the world around them. The only serious upgrade they have undergone dates back to 1921, when a Briton called James Biggs, who had recently lost his sight, painted his own cane white in order to make it easily visible and to alert others to the presence of someone unable to see nearby obstacles. In the opinion of Daniela Rus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, the white cane has had its day. Dr Rus would like to replace it with a system that scans its user’s environment and communicates back to him what it sees.
Dr Rus’s device, of which she demonstrated a prototype on June 1st at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore, consists of a camera worn on a lanyard around the neck, and a belt. A computer inside the camera creates a three-dimensional image of the area ahead of the wearer,…Continue reading