A federal grant to support research that seeks to improve the independent mobility of people who are blind has been awarded to UALR.
Dr. Cang Ye, associate professor in the Department of Systems Engineering who served as primary investigator for the grant, said the objective is to develop a co-robotic navigation aid, called a Co-Robotic Cane (CRC).
“The device will collaborate with its user via intuitive human-device interaction mechanisms to navigate three-dimensional environments,” said Ye.
Ye added that the CRC’s navigational functions will include position estimation of the device, wayfinding, obstacle detection, and object recognition.
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health are co-funding the project. The total award for the three-year grant is $370,798.
Project team members are developing several methods to achieve the goal of improved independent mobility for the blind and improved quality of life, according to Ye.
Among those methods are the integration of egomotion estimation and visual feature tracking. Egomotion estimation refers to methods that estimate a camera’s motion relative to a rigid scene. Object and background appearance variations often pose a challenge to existing visual tracking methods, Ye said.
In addition, a pattern recognition method that may recognize indoor structures and objects for wayfinding and obstacle manipulation/avoidance is being developed, as well as an innovative mechanism that will intuitively convey desired travel direction. A Human Intent Detection interface for automatic device mode switching is also in the works.
The proposed device can be encapsulated in a miniaturized system and installed on a conventional white cane to enhance its functionality, according to Ye.
“The CRC will provide advanced navigational functions that are currently unavailable in the existing blind navigation aids,” he said.
World Service for the Blind and the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired provided support letters for the grant application, said Ye. The organizations will provide mobility specialists and students/trainees to test the prototype and provide feedback.
For more information about engineering at UALR, go to Department of Systems Engineering.