Japanese inventors build a robotic dog to guide the visually impaired

Robotic guidance Dog

The Concept

There is no denying the fact that dogs are man’s best friend and for a long time, trained dogs have given a helping hand to humans with certain disabilities. Guide dogs or in other terms seeing-eye dogs are such a kind that are trained to help humans who are visually blind. But one may think about the maintenance and care that comes with adopting a dog. In order to address this, a Japanese company called NSK develops robotic guide dogs that can move around the floor rolling, climb stairs and assist visually impaired people. The idea behind this is to empower visually impaired people, especially who are old, to have a guide dog that makes their life simpler and extend help to them when they need to move around.

The Target

Every year, tens and thousands of people around the world take help of a guide dog for a number of physical disabilities, to navigate and perform many activities indoors and outdoors. People who are affected by vision blindness will find guide dogs as a very valuable companion as they can lead them and help them to navigate and perform simple tasks for them. The robotic guide dogs can fill this void for owners with visual disabilities who do not want to take the responsibility of a real guide dog at home. The robotic guide dogs can be of an important help outdoors for navigation as they can be fitted with GPS that can take their owners to the exact spot where they want to go.

The Need

Any one of us can be affected by blindness, partial or full, one form or the other. It can occur due to natural aging, injury or due to certain disease. The kind of discomfort and hardship it can create is beyond one’s imagination. Blindness can obstruct even the basic functioning of daily chores around the home and navigation. One can only move around the well-known environment around them but are still not safe from injuries. Socially, they can face difficulty in doing activities, duties and perform work outside their regular work environment. All these eventually make them dependent on someone or somebody to get their tasks completed. These problems warrant a solution that can enable the visually challenged people go the extra mile and get their duties done. Robotic guard dog is such an invention that can perform this duty efficiently.

Key Features

The features of the robotic guide dogs, also known as seeing-eye dogs can empower people who are visually challenged. Their core functionality is to become a substitute for the eyes of their owner who are unable to see. They are fitted with high resolution 3-D imaging sensors that can visualize the environment and obstacles around them. They can roll-on flat surfaces on wheels and are equally capable of navigating on uneven surfaces with their hinged legs. They are also fitter with bumper sensors to avoid collision with any obstacles. They are also able to negotiate stairs and climb on uneven surfaces to help visually blind people.

The robotic guide dogs are programmed to react to physical contact and gestures by humans and they respond with a synthetic voice programmed inside them. In future versions, they will be fitted with GPS and will be able to take voice commands.

The Solution

The solution that is imperative to people who are visually challenged are limited, this is where robotic guide dogs come into picture and aim to provide human-friendly help that is much needed. Robotic guide dogs can help a visually challenged person navigate around the known and unknown environment with precision, using their built-in GPS. They can also lend a hand to their owners and bring little things to them, and perform tasks that can make their life a lot easier. But the most important solution that these robots will provide to their owners is their ability to sense and avoid danger to their users.

Trends

Let’s look at some of the other robotic guides that aid visually challenged people in navigating one way or the other, and are available in the market.

1. Mygo Cane

Mygo Cane

If a full-sized robotic guide dog is not your preference and takes a lot of space in your home, then Mygo Cane is one smart invention that can help visually challenged people navigate around known and unknown environments without much baggage and fuss to carry around. Mygo, a marvelous invention by Sebastian Ritzler, is an interactive guide cane that has smart sensor camera which measures the area of ground in front of it precisely and simultaneously provides audible feedback through a headset to the wearer. A small hub-motor is fitted on the tip of the cane that can provide feedback through the grip, and it can last up to 6 hours. The cane is sturdy and completely waterproof, and its height is adjustable, makes it a great choice for those who wants a device that can help them navigate through streets.

2. “Hitomi” Electric Wheelchair Robot

Hitomi

Not every visually challenged can or would want to walk around, and there are people who cannot see and are limited to their chairs due to some medical conditions, Hitomi electric wheelchair robot is an amazing invention for such people. The electric wheelchair has some regular features that would find on most guide dogs or guide machines, such as video camera sensors that act like eyes, battery powered, obstruction detection system and speakers that give feedback to the owner about the surroundings. But what sets the Hitomi electric wheelchair robot apart is its ability to memorize and recognize sign patterns along its way and then use it to navigate back and forth as it travels along. It has the ability to read and use braille blocks, identify landmarks and pedestrian crossings to navigate to the right destination correctly. Indoors, they can use the edges between the walls and floor to identify objects and navigate.

3. iSonic cane

iSonic cane

iSonic Cane is just not any other cane, and it comes with some serious technology packed inside it. With its two ultrasonic sensors mounted on it, it can detect obstacles up to a range of 7 foot radius, which translates to detection of obstacles up to 2 meters, 25 degrees horizontally and 55 degrees vertically. It has a very unique way of telling the user of how close the person is to the obstacle; the harder the can vibrates, the closer the person is to the obstacle, the lighter the vibration is, the further away the person is. The technology doesn’t stop there, it can also detect colors of certain objects and speaks out the color audibly, this can come to use when a visually challenged person wants to avoid a dark, shady area. The battery that it packs gives out a usage of 11 hours continuously if the vibrations were to be used, and 72 hours worth of stand-by time.

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