2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Blind

Main researcher Jordi Roig, using the OnTheBus app

Like the rest of us, the blind can use speaking navigation apps to find their way around the city. A new Android application developed at Spain’s Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, however, is designed specifically to help blind people get to their destination by bus. Appropriately named OnTheBus, the app could also be used by the deaf, the cognitively-impaired, or anyone else.  Read More

Researchers at the University of Texas are exploring the possibility of electrically stimu...

A team of researchers at the University of Texas is exploring the possibility of electrically stimulating the visual cortex of the brain to create simple images and shapes. This development could lead to a visual prosthetic device that would effectively "trick" the brain of visually impaired or blind people into seeing ... and such a device, the authors say, is only about five years away.  Read More

The 'intelligent' goggles use computer algorithms to help the partly-sighted navigate

Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M), Spain, have developed a pair of “intelligent” goggles that make getting around a bit easier for partly-sighted people, by providing them with Terminator-style vision. Using a pair of cameras mounted on a virtual reality headset connected to a tiny computer, the device scans the area ahead of the wearer and displays information about the scene as color-coded outlines that convey the distance and shapes of objects that are difficult to otherwise see or interpret.  Read More

Eelke Folmer watches as student Dora Uchel demonstrates the Navatar system

When blind people are trying to navigate the city streets, they can get assistance from a speaking GPS-enabled smartphone, just like everyone else. Once they move indoors and lose access to the required satellite signals, however, it’s a different story. While there are some indoor navigation systems that require things like radio-frequency tags to be strategically placed around the building, it’s currently unrealistic to expect to find such systems installed in many places. The University of Nevada, Reno’s experimental new Navatar system, on the other hand, just requires a smartphone loaded up with a digital two-dimensional map of the building in question.  Read More

A new retinal prosthesis could allow the blind to see, by using pulses of near-infrared li...

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in North America, while retinitis pigmentosa causes approximately 1.5 million people worldwide to lose their sight every year. Individuals afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases such as these might someday be able to see again, however, thanks to a device being developed at California’s Stanford University. Scientists there are working on a retinal prosthesis, that uses what could almost be described as miniature solar panels to turn light signals into nerve impulses.  Read More

A clinical trial of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis involving 30 patients has produced enc...

After receiving European market approval for its Argus II Retinal Prosthesis in 2011, Second Sight has published interim results of an international clinical trial showing encouraging results in blind patients suffering degenerative eye conditions that lead to incurable blindness.  Read More

UCLA's Dr. Steven Schwartz (center) transplanting specialized cells derived from human emb...

UCLA researchers are reporting a milestone in the therapeutic use of stem cells after two legally blind patients who received transplants of specialized retinal cells derived from human embryonic stem cells reported a modest improvement in their vision. Monitoring of the patients’ progress over a four month period also found no safety concerns, signs of rejection or abnormal cell growth. The researchers are claiming that the success of the procedure could pave the way for a new therapy to treat eye diseases.  Read More

The NSK robot guide dog climbs stairs (Photo: gizmag.com)

Guide dogs for the visually impaired provide an important service and help provide a welcome sense of autonomy to physically-challenged individuals. Unfortunately, the highly-skilled canines require about US$30,000 in training over several months, and always seem to be in short supply. The growing demand for these specialized animal companions gave a group of engineers from Japan's NSK corporation and the University of Electro-Communications just the impetus they needed to design a mechanical solution, and the robotic guide dog was born.  Read More

Le Chal is a navigational device for the blind, that guides them to their destination via ...

Within just the past few years, scientists have developed an impressive number of experimental systems designed to help the blind navigate city streets. These have included devices that mount on the wrist, are incorporated into glasses, are worn as a vest, and that augment a traditional white cane. A young researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Bangalore, India, however, has come up with something else - a navigational device for the blind that's built into a shoe.  Read More

The touchscreen Braille writer lets users position their fingers anywhere on the tablet di...

Undergraduate student, Adam Duran, made excellent use of his time at Stanford University, where he attended a two-month summer course organized by the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center (AHPCRC). Together with his mentors, Adrian Lew and Sohan Dharmaraja, he created a potentially game changing application that should make the lives of visually impaired people both easier and less expensive. The application turns a tablet into a Braille writer and thus saves the blind from having to purchase a device that may cost up to ten times more than a tablet.  Read More

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