VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a wearable assistive device for the visually impaired, which enables them to sense their environment and move around more safely.
The device, which is worn like a heart rate monitor, has been clinically tested, it functions on the basis of a radar system developed by the research centre.
The wearable sensor device is based on radio waves, enabling the signal to pass through clothing such as under a coat.
The radar conveys information to the user in the form of vibrations or voice feedback. It senses most obstacles in the user’s surroundings, although difficulties remain in sensing objects such as thin branches and bushes.
The radar has already been clinically tested in device trials approved by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, in which VTT’s partners were Kuopio University Hospital and the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired. The test group included a total of 25 visually impaired people, of whom 14 were blind, 7 partially sighted and 4 were deaf-blind.
A total of 92% of the trial users felt that the device helped them to perceive their surroundings, 80% felt that their trust in their ability to move around independently had increased and 32% would immediately start using the test device in its current form.
On the other hand, they were not satisfied with distance control and vibration-based feedback. The research will continue with selected test users and the device will be further developed.
Provided by: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland