Perception-enhancing glasses to help visually impaired

By combining a range of techniques, scientists from the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Mexico have created a device to help people with visual impairment navigate more easily.

The project, developed in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, began formally in 2009, and in less than five years a prototype was created and is about to be transferred to the technology company Qualtop, said Eduardo José Bayro Corrochano, project leader.

The navigation device consists of glasses with stereo sound sensors, GPS technology and a tablet, which guides the visually impaired person to a specific point and avoids hitting static or moving obstacles. It also recognises money notes of various denominations, and the colour of clothing.

‘We currently have a light weight, ergonomically acceptable prototype since it almost looks like a normal pair of glasses and can work in real time with batteries that last approximately four hours in continuous use. We hope to have a commercial prototype by next August at the latest, and being able to market it in early 2015,’ Bayro Corrochano said in a statement.

Researchers at CINVESTAV estimate that the commercial product would cost between $1,000 and $1,500 ($13,000- $19,500 Mexican pesos), and consist of the glasses with sensors and a tablet from which a voice would tell directions and/or provide warnings.

Bayro Corrochano acknowledged the existence of similar devices, but the development at Cinvestav combines new algorithms and technology that reportedly makes it unique. For example, the use of ultrasound techniques to detect translucent obstacles, like glass, or the use of artificial intelligence in order to recognise places, signs and objects. These glasses are also useful for those with poor eyesight, as they help to improve perception.

The project has generated two patents at the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, and the developers are looking for investors interested in participating in large-scale production.