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EU project uses autonomous vehicle tech to assist visually impaired

A European collaboration involving universities, companies and research institutes is developing a wearable obstacle-detection system based on autonomous vehicle technology that could assist the visually impaired, guide robotic drones and aid in smart manufacturing. 

The Inspex system will first be demonstrated inside a white cane for the visually impaired. (Credit: Leti)

The three-year 'Inspex' project aims to develop a portable 3D detection system that will employ lidar, UWB radar and MEMS ultrasound sensors to identify 3D obstacles in real-time, even in the harshest weather conditions.

The sensors will be co-integrated with an inertial measurement unit, environmental sensors, and signal-and-data processing within a miniature, low-power system designed to operate within smart environments.

Initially, the system will be demonstrated inside a white cane for the visually impaired, providing 3D spatial audio feedback on obstacle location. Applications in human mobility, instrumentation and smart homes/factories are also anticpated for the near future. 

‘Sophisticated obstacle-detection systems such as those in autonomous vehicles are typically large and heavy, have high power consumption and require large computational capabilities,’ said Suzanne Lesecq, project coordinator at project partner Leti. ‘The Inspex team will work together to miniaturise and adapt this technology for individual and personal applications, which will require even greater capability for all-conditions obstacle detection. The project is a strong example of European innovation to bring leading-edge technology to a broader segment of users.’

Project partners include Leti (France), the University of Manchester (UK), Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland), STMicroelectronics (Switzerland), Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology CSEM, Tyndall National Institute University College Cork (Ireland), University of Namur ASBL (Belgium), GoSense (France) and SensL Technologies (Ireland).

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