Toyota Motor Corporation is developing a wearable gadget that is aimed to give blind and visually impaired people greater mobility both indoors and outdoors, the manufacturer has announced. Worn on the shoulders, the device uses cameras to identify surroundings and speakers and vibrations to direct the user.
The Japanese company has unveiled details this week but has not made the releasing date public. Developers working on Project Blaid are producing the gadget. According to a report by the BBC, they announced they had plans to add mapping and object identification, as well as facial recognition features.
Robin Spinks, senior strategy manager at UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), described the device as an exciting development. He told the BBC that such gadgets could broaden limitless possibilities for millions of people living with visual issues.
Toyota said in a statement this week that Blaid was not intended to replace currently available aids to blind and visually impaired people, such as dogs, canes and basic GPS, but pointed out that the device was meant to help fill the gaps left by them by providing people with extended information about their surroundings.
“Project Blaid is one example of how Toyota is leading the way to the future of mobility when getting around will be about more than just cars,” commented Toyota executive Simon Nagata. “We want to extend the freedom of mobility for all, no matter their circumstance, location or ability.”
A video posted online shows how Blaid can be used to tell one door marked gentlemen’s toilet and another marked exit apart. The company said the wearable device was originally meant to help users navigate indoors.
As part of the project, which has nothing to do with car manufacturing, the worldwide known Japanese firm said it was inviting employees to send videos of common indoor signs that developers could use to teach Blaid to recognize them.
Microsoft developed a similar device
Toyota’s device comes after Microsoft announced it had developed a headset that guides visually impaired people around cities by using location and navigation data with an intelligent network of information in urban locations.
Microsoft’s headset uses similar technology to that used by Google Glass and a few months ago the company introduced audio guidance features named Orientate and Look Ahead, which enable users to ask for information through voice controls and clicking sounds and let them know what is coming up in order of distance.