Project BLAID

Wearable mobility device aids visually impaired
by Karen Nielsen
July/August 2016
Project BLAID
Transforming Lives
Belo Cipriani, a young blind man who is testing a prototype of the wearable device says mobility is “epic for independence.” Photos by Sam Ciaramitaro
Imagine trying to navigate an office building when you’re blind or visually impaired. Every movement is an exercise in decoding sounds, scents and landmarks to find seemingly simple things like a restroom, elevator or door.

Existing tools like canes, service dogs and basic GPS gadgets only go so far.

That’s why, for the last four years, Toyota engineers and the Toyota Partner Robot Group have been collaborating with leading organizations and members of the vision-impaired community to develop a new wearable device that will greatly improve mobility.

Project BLAID fills the gaps by providing users with more information about their indoor surroundings. The lightweight, horseshoe-shaped device is worn around the shoulders and is equipped with cameras that detect the user’s surroundings. It scans for features that are important to the visually impaired and communicates through speakers and vibrations. Bluetooth technology allows the user to pair the device with a smartphone for additional functionality.

Users can interact with the device through voice recognition and buttons, asking to locate a restroom, escalator, exit, stairs, doors or storefronts in places like office buildings, shopping malls and airports.

Toyota plans to eventually integrate mapping, object identification and facial recognition technologies. Beta testing on the wearable device began recently.

Designing Minds
The current Project BLAID prototype is a hands-free, horseshoe-shaped device that sits around the user’s shoulders.

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