Recent revolutionary achievements in robotics and bioengineering have given scientists and engineers great opportunities and challenges to serve humanity. This seminars is about "NAVBELT AND GUIDECANE", which are two computerised devices based on advanced mobile robotic navigation for obstacle avoidance useful for visually impaired people. This is "Bioengineering for people with disabilities".
NavBelt is worn by the user like a belt and is equipped with an array of ultrasonic sensors. It provides acoustic signals via a set of stereo earphones that guide the user around obstacles or displace a virtual acoustic panoramic image of the traveller's surroundings. One limitation of the NavBelt is that it is exceedingly difficult for the user to comprehend the guidance signals in time, to allow fast work.
A newer device, called GuideCane, effectively overcomes this problem. The GuideCane uses the same mobile robotics technology as the NavBelt but is a wheeled device pushed ahead of the user via an attached cane. When the Guide Cane detects an obstacle, it steers around it. The user immediately feels this steering action and can follow the Guide Cane's new path easily without any conscious effort. The mechanical, electrical and software components, user-machine interface and the prototypes of the two devices are described.