Blind Bargains

Using Ultrasonic Sensors to Detect Objects

Running into objects because you can not see them can be a real issue for the blind. Canes and guide dogs do a good job of helping blind people avoid objects that are below the face, but low hanging branches or anything that is at face level can be challenging to avoid. A new project that is being developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield are aiming to solve this problem using ultrasonic technology. The researchers are basing their design on whiskers. Most mammals have whiskers on their faces which detect how close they are to an object. Since humans don't have whiskers, the team believes that they can design something that mimics whiskers to help the blind detect objects and give firefighters better information when they're trying to navigate a smoke filled room. The device will use ultrasonic sensors and vibration patterns to alert the person to how close they are to the object. The stronger the vibration, the closer you are to the object. At this time, they are multiple years out from making a commercial project, but they have already started beta testing with firefighters.

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Category: Miscellaneous

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For the past three years Alena has been a feature writer for the online magazine Matilda Ziegler. She has also been a contractor for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, helping blind adults learn to use adaptive technology. She is studying to be a teacher of the visually impaired at Portland State. You might also recognize her from the Serotalk podcast Triple Click Home.

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