AI backpack concept gives audio alerts to blind pedestrians

When Jagadish Mahendran heard about his friend’s daily challenges navigating as a blind person, he immediately thought of his artificial intelligence work.

“For years I had been teaching robots to see things,” he said. Mahendran, a computer vision researcher at the University of Georgia’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence, found it ironic that he had helped develop machines — including a shopping robot that could “see” stocked shelves and a kitchen robot — but nothing for people with low or no vision.

After exploring existing tech for blind and low vision people like camera-enabled canes or GPS-connected smartphone apps, he came up with a backpack-based AI design that uses cameras to provide instantaneous alerts.

Mahendran focused on latency. Delays can be dangerous when, for example, a car quickly crosses an intersection. He said he significantly shortened lag time.