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Infrared Goggles, Vibrating Armband Help the Blind 'See'

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Infrared goggles used in the new navigational system.

The prototype goggles incorporate a pair of infrared cameras to capture a stereoscopic image that a small computer can use to create a map of what lies ahead.

Credit: Manuel Zahn

Researchers at Germany's Technical University of Munich (TUM) incorporated a pair of infrared cameras into prototype goggles produced by a three-dimensional (3D) printer to help blind and visually impaired people navigate their environment intuitively.

A stereoscopic image created by the two cameras is used to create a map of the user’s surroundings, which is converted to a low-resolution image on a 5x5 grid.

The user, outfitted with an armband containing 25 vibrating pads, receives strong vibrations on the edge of the grid to identify walls, for instance.

The vibrations grow weaker in the center of the room, and as users walk toward an obstacle, the vibrational intensity of the respective pads increases in the corresponding spot.

Said TUM's Manuel Zahn, "You quickly learn that when you move, the vibration moves on your arm as a lower-resolution representation of your surroundings."

From New Scientist
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