Category: Lower Extremity Disabilities

Co-Robotic Navigation Aid for the Visually Impaired

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The Co-Robotic Navigation Aid for the Visually Impaired is a co-robotic navigation aid that enhances mobility for visually and physically impaired. The goal is to develop a co-robotic cane for the visually impaired that has enhanced navigation capabilities and that can relay critical information about the environment to its user.

Using computer vision, the proposed cane recognizes indoor structures such as stairways and doors, as well as detect potential obstacles. Using an intuitive human-device interaction mechanism, the cane will then convey the appropriate travel direction to the user.

The objective if the project is to develop enabling technology for a co-robotic navigation aid, called a Co-Robotic Cane (CRC). The CRC collaborates with users via intuitive Human-Device Interaction (HDl) mechanisms for effective navigation in 3D environments. The CRCs navigational functions include device position estimation, wayfinding, obstacle detection/avoidance, and object recognition. The use of the CRC will improve the visually impaired's independent mobility and thus their quality of life. 

The broader impacts include: (1) the methods' near term applications will impact the large visually impaired community; (2) the methods will improve the autonomy of small robots and portable robotic devices that have a myriad of applications in military surveillance, law enforcement, and search and rescue; and (3) the project will improve the research infrastructure of the Pi's university and train graduate and undergraduate students for their future careers in science and engineering.

NIH has funded three projects to help develop co-robots that can assist researchers, patients, and clinicians. This is one of three projects, awarded funding by the National Institutes of Health, to develop innovative robots that work cooperatively with people and adapt to changing environments to improve human capabilities and enhance medical procedures. Funding for these projects totals approximately $2.4 million over the next five years, subject to the availability of funds.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock is leading this project. This project is co-funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.


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Co-Robotic Navigation Aid for the Visually Impaired