Obstacle Identification and Avoidance Using the ‘EyeCane’: a Tactile Sensory Substitution Device for Blind Individuals
One of the main challenges facing the blind and visually impaired is independent mobility without being obtrusive to their environment. We developed a tactile low-cost finger-size sensory substitution device, the EyeCane, to aid the Blind in obstacle identification and avoidance in an unobtrusive manner. A simplified version of the EyeCane was tested on 6 sighted blindfolded participants who were naïve to the device. After a short (2–3 min) training period they were asked to identify and avoid knee-to-waist-high (Side) and sidewalk-height (Floor) obstacles using the EyeCane. Avoidance included walking around or stepping over the obstacles. We show that in the fifth trial, participants correctly identified 87 ± 13.6 % (mean ± SD) and correctly avoided 63 ± 15 % of the side obstacles compared to 14 % in the control condition (p < 4E-10 and p < 1.1E-05 respectively). For Floor obstacles, participants correctly identified 79 ± 18.8 % and correctly avoided 41 ± %37.6 compared to the control’s 10 % (p < 0.002 and p < 0.06 respectively).
KeywordsSensory substitution Obstacle avoidance Mobility Blind Assistive technology
We would like to thank Shlomi Hannasy for help in developing the EyeCane and in running the experiments. This work was supported by a European Research Council grant to AA (grant number 310809); The Charitable Gatsby Foundation; The James S. McDonnell Foundation scholar award (to AA; grant number 220020284); The Israel Science Foundation (grant number ISF 1684/08).
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