Driverless cars inspire French AI expert to build tool for blind

A scientist has partnered with a computer vision specialist to develop a harness that warns blind people of hazards in their path, using the same technology as self-driving cars.

The harness, which weighs just under a kilogram, is worn around the neck.

It does not replace a traditional white cane or guide dog as a navigational aid but it does give advance warning of potential upcoming hazards, including moving obstacles such as e-scooters, bicycles and other walkers, or street furniture such as signposts or flowerbeds.

A ‘sound picture’ is played through special speakers which do not cut ambient noises, letting the wearer know the type of obstacle, what direction it is moving in, and how close it is.

The idea came to Maël Fabien when he was doing a PhD course in artificial intelligence in Lausanne, Switzerland, and lived near the city’s main ophthalmic hospital.