Microsoft’s Kinect has been turned into an indoor navigation system for those with impaired eyesight.
It’s great that Kinect can be used as the eyes of a robot, but what about using it to help actual humans? A student project at Universität Konstanz in Germany called NAVI (Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired) attaches Kinect to a helmet and uses its abilities in tandem with other devices to help the visually impaired better navigate indoor environments.
Some of the current “technologies” that the blind use to get around are the cane method and the seeing-eye dog. They obviously work to some degree, but the cane method has a limited range while dogs must be trained and taken care of properly. NAVI doesn’t need to be fed, but in its current state does require the user to carry around a computer in a special backpack (keep in mind, it’s a work in progress).
On the positive side, NAVI basically works like a GPS for the visually impaired. Using depth information from the Kinect camera, a belt with three vibration motors on the left, center, and right lets the wearer get a general impression of a room or hallway. The addition of QR codes placed around an environment enables NAVI to give voice instructions as the codes are read by the camera.
The instructions will tell wearers to “Turn Right” or that there’s a “Door Ahead.” It’s might not be the ultimate navigation tool just yet, but NAVI could take some stress off the minds of the visually impaired while in complicated indoor environments, as long as it doesn’t freeze or bug out.