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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
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

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 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
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
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
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
We’ve seen a number of devices - such as the UltraCane and EYE 21 system - that combine sonar and haptic or audio feedback to let the visually impaired “see” their surroundings through the senses of touch or hearing. Tacit is a similar device that also uses sonar to measure the distance to objects and provide users with a ‘view” of their surroundings through haptic feedback. But unlike previous devices we’ve looked at, Tacit is mounted on the wrist so it doesn’t impair a user’s hearing or interfere with the use of other assistance devices such as canes. Read More
Engineers from the Research Center for Graphic Technologies at Spain's Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) have created an experimental system, that allows the blind to be aware of their surroundings through the use of sound. Called EYE 21, it consists of a pair of sunglasses with two built-in micro video cameras, a computer, and a pair of headphones. It's similar to sonar systems that have been used to achieve the same goal. Read More
We've seen a number of prototype and concept devices aimed at upgrading or even replacing the low-tech white cane and this latest example from Hebrew University - the Virtual Cane - appears close to becoming a commercial product. Virtual Cane is a handheld device that uses a type of sonar to recognize physical objects up to 10 m (39 ft) from the user. It emits invisible focused beams towards objects it is pointed at and determines how far away they are. The information is then relayed to the user via a series of vibrations which vary in intensity depending on the distance. Read More