An artificial intelligence researcher, Jagadish K. Mahendran, and his team at the University of Georgia have just designed a voice-activated AI-powered backpack that helps blind and visually impaired people navigate the streets and better perceive the world in general. The installation is based on a 4K camera, a computer unit and a Bluetooth earphone to help the user navigate obstacles in real time.
“When I met a visually impaired friend last year, I noticed the irony that although I have learned to see robots, there are many people who cannot see and need help. This motivated me to build the visual assistance system with OpenCV̵
The system consists of a Luxonis OAK-D spatial AI camera that can be hidden in a vest or jacket, a host computer (such as a laptop) that is placed in a backpack, a pocket-sized battery pack that is hidden in a fanny pack. pack, and a Bluetooth compatible earphone to provide real-time alerts and approximate locations of nearby obstacles such as upcoming crosswalks, tree branches, entrances, signs, curbs, stairs and other pedestrians.
The OAK-D camera is a remarkably powerful AI tool that runs on Intel Movidius VPU and the Intel Distribution or OpenVINO toolkit for on-chip edge AI interfacing. It can process advanced neural networks while providing a real-time depth map of the stereo pair and accelerated computer vision functions from a single 4K camera.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 285 million people around the world are visually impaired. Despite this, our current options for visual navigation assistance systems are still limited, such as voice-activated smartphone apps and smart walking poles with a camera. Current options lack a depth perception factor, which is really necessary for better independent navigation, so this AI backpack (which does offer depth perception recognition) is a much-needed step forward for this kind of technology.
“It’s incredible to see a developer take Intel’s AI technology to the forefront and quickly build a solution to make a friend’s life easier,” said Hema Chamraj, director of Technology Advocacy and AI4Good at Intel. “The technology exists; we are only limited by the imagination of the developer community. ”
There are plans to make the project open source. And while the current AI backpack setup is pretty discreet, it’s still a bit of a pain to lug around a backpack and hide the camera. Hopefully another creative person or company can create a more compact solution.