A group of researchers from Google Research announced that they have established a new project which uses AI technology to help the blind walk or jog alone on the road without any other assistance.
Thomas Panek, a famous American blind marathon runner (the first known person to run a full marathon with a guide dog), is also the CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a mutual aid organization for visually impaired people. Google's research team says, the inspiration of the new technology and the credit of the project go to Panek's ideas.
The assistive technologies developed by the team include smartphones connected via internet and bone conduction headsets.
The smartphone (fixed to the waist) is used to scan the yellow line on the road which of course was drawn specially. The information in the mobile phone is first sent to the AI application on the Google server, where it continues to calculate. Synchronization sends the analytical signal back to the phone. The signal is then converted into a specific audio, which is conveyed to the runner through headphones.
If the runner leans to the left, the sound in the left ear will be louder, and if the runner leans to the right, the sound in the right ear will also become louder.
The value of artificial intelligence is reflected in the ability to cope with the complex geographic environment. The mobile phone which scans the lines on the road needs to be able to adapt to changing lighting conditions or unexpected events, such as parts of the road being covered by leaves.
As the project progressed, Panek served as a testing agent. After several iterations, he has gone from walking in a small gym to running in an outdoor park.
The next test scene will be on a path in New York's Central Park which has been temporarily painted with yellow lines. In the past few months, the project has been mature enough to invite other blind people who are willing to take the test. The Google Research team continues to optimize in hopes to cover a wider community of blind people so that more visually impaired people can act independently.
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