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Fascinating new device lets blind people ‘see’ with their arms

Published Feb 21st, 2022 7:42PM EST
Image: Firefighter Montreal/Adobe

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A group of researchers at the Technical University of Munich have created a device that helps blind people see. Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan have published a paper on the device. The paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, but the device itself seems promising.

This device helps blind people see

Closeup of an eye of a black manImage source: / Adobe

The device is composed of two IR cameras attached to a small set of goggles. These cameras capture images of the surrounding room or area. That data is then fed to the sleeve. The sleeve then uses the data to register and let users know how far away objects are. It’s an intriguing design, and one that could open new doors for people with low vision when it’s refined.

When in use, the device allows users to keep track of the environment around them. According to the study, whenever the user approaches an object, the haptic feedback in the sleeve increases. This helps alert the wearer to the upcoming object so that they can turn away or slow down.

During testing, the authors of the study say that they recorded 98 percent accuracy from the device. All five of the participants that took part in the trial were able to complete the chosen path in one run. They continued to get faster with each subsequent run, too. These results make the possibility of finding a device that helps blind people see very promising.

Cutting off other senses

Image source: Amazon

One of the most intriguing things about this new device is that it doesn’t cut off other senses. Users with low vision rely on their other senses, like smell and hearing, to tell what’s going on around them. There are other devices out there that help people with low vision. However, some of these rely on using senses like hearing to assist the wearer. As such, that cuts them off from using one of their most important senses.

With this new device from Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan, though, the device doesn’t require the user to give up their hearing or other senses. As such, when made smaller, it could provide a better way for people affected by low vision to get around. Of course, we’re still in the early stages of the device’s life. Based on the paper, though, Zahn and Khan believe they can make the new device smaller than Microsoft’s Kinect. The Kinect was a motion-detection system used on the Microsoft Xbox, and it is noted frequently in the paper.

In the past, we’ve seen brain implants that can help people see shapes. But, if they can make a device that helps blind people see, as well as one that is small enough to use easily, it could revolutionize how people with low vision get around without the need for surgery.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.