Recent revolutionary achievements in robotics and bioengineering have given scientists
and engineers great opportunities and challenges to serve humanity. This seminar
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.