Thursday, September 16, 2021

Teen creates device enabling the blind to get around better, even get jobs

Mexico City, May 4 (EFE).- A vest fitted with sensors and artificial intelligence has been created by Mexican teenager Diego Roel to replace the classic cane or walking stick for the blind with technology that makes life much easier for them and even gives them the chance to get a job.

The device called Strap, the 16-year-old prep student at the Technological University of Mexico (Unitec) told EFE, will give the blind “a new way to sense their surroundings,” which will in turn offer them unprecedented independence, something he believes “will open the door to many job opportunities.”

“We have around 500 on the waiting list (for vests) including several companies that are interested in giving their blind employees the chance to do their work even better,” the young inventor said.

Fotografía cedida por Diego Roel hoy, viernes 5 de mayo de 2018, que muestra un chaleco con inteligencia artificial y sensores que le advierte a los ciegos sobre los obstáculos físicos a su alrededor. Un chaleco, inteligencia artificial y unos sensores creados por el adolescente mexicano Diego Roel buscan relevar al clásico bastón para ciegos al ofrecer una tecnología que facilite mucho más la vida a los invidentes y les permita obtener más oportunidades laborales. EFE

The chief goal of the device is to allow “people with sight disabilities to be more independent, more sure of themselves and with more opportunities,” without any need to use a cane or other such accessory.

By just feeling vibrations in different parts of the body, the blind user is warned of whatever obstacles ahead have been detected by the sensors, and which have been interpreted and classified by artificial intelligence.

“The device determines whether there is an obstacle or not. For example, if it’s just pavement, it’s not an obstacle, so it says this is not a danger, therefore I’m not going to warn you. But if it’s a hole in the ground, it will identify the danger and will warn you,” Roel said.

Sensors in the vest at shoulder level indicate head-high obstacles; at chest level, some large object in the way; at the hip, a hole or stumbling block on the ground ahead.

The vest also detects the approach of objects in movement like vehicles, and emits a special kind of alert so the person can stop in time.

A particular novelty is its ability to detect things above the waist, spaces to which the cane has no access.

Thanks to the sensors, elevated objects are detected “like trees, posts, posters, columns, things the blind run into all the time because the cane is incapable of detecting them.”

Roel will compete with his company Strap Technologies in the Startup World Cup taking place in Silicon Valley next May 11, following his project’s victory in Talent Land 2018, the innovation and technology event held last April in the Mexican state of Jalisco.