Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kinect system developed into navigational aid for blind people

From PhysOrg.com:

It seems like there are no shortage of uses for the Kinect system. The device, which was initially created by Microsoft as an add-on to its popular Xbox 360 video game console, to allow users to ditch the controller, has been getting around. Now, it has been integrated into a system designed to help the blind.

The system in question, which was designed by graduate students at the Universit├Ąt Konstanz in Germany, has been dubbed the NAVI, or Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired.

NAVI works something like this. The infrared camera from a Kinect system is mounted to a helmet that can be worn by a bilnd person. The visual data from that camera is turned into a set of audio instructions that are then transmitted to the wearer via a wireless headset. The system also features a standard camera added as well, allowing for a kind of three-camera stereoscopic vision. Certain items, such as door, will trigger events, such as a countdown, to prevent users from walking into the aforementioned door, in a kind of augmented reality.




The goal is to be able to give a blind person warnings about potential obstructions and directions to navigate in set spaces, at a longer distance than the current systems in place. Though this reporter for one, thinks that a Kinect will be much more of a supplement to seeing eye dogs than a replacement for them.

The system is also paired with a vibro-tactile arduino system in the belt, that will most likely act as a warning system, should an obstacle come perilously close to the user. No plans for commercial release of the system have been mentioned at this time.