Toyota has announced that its robotics team is working on a wearable for people with visual impairment. This shoulder wearable will be equipped with cameras and sensors to help navigate the sightless.
Under Project Blaid, the Japanese automotive firm is making a wearable device that will guide its users in public places like office premises and shopping malls and help identify the features in any area like restrooms, escalators, stairs, exit and doors.
"Project Blaid is one example of how Toyota is leading the way to the future of mobility, when getting around will be about more than just cars," said Simon Nagata, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Toyota Motor North America, in a press statement. "We want to extend the freedom of mobility for all, no matter their circumstance, location or ability."
The shoulder wearable will be equipped with cameras, speakers and vibration motors to detect the user's surroundings and communicate information to the person through sound or vibration. The user can in turn communicate with the device through voice recognition and buttons. The device is aimed at guiding the users better than canes, dogs and GPS devices while walking down the streets or any location.
Toyota expects to launch the product soon for beta testing. Going forward, it will also integrate mapping, object identification and facial recognition technologies into the device.
As part of this project, the Toyota robotics arm is working with a team of volunteers to improve the product right at its development stage. It is also launching an employee engagement programme inviting its team members to submit videos of "common indoor landmarks". These videos would be used by the project developers to "teach" the device to better recognise these landmarks.
Wearable is a growing market. In the next five years, it is expected to grow by 36.9% compound annual growth rate (Cagr) to reach 560 million shipments.