By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

Researchers at the University of Georgia have announced development of a backpack designed to help the vision-impared.   The backpack uses a 4K camera along with Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit and can run up to 8 hours.

Included in the system in addition to the camera is a GPS unit, Movidius image processing, and a built in AI processor.   The camera itself mounts into a fanny pack or vest with the actual computing hardware in the backpack.

The system can detect obstacles (including overhead) and tell the wearer where they are through audio prompts.  In addition, it has the ability to read traffic signs which allows it to inform the wearer of a stop sign or crosswalk.  It will also tell the user of a change in elevation including a curb.

The wearer controls the unit by voice with a Bluetooth earpiece that works like a phone headset.  This allows both a speaker and microphone to be included in a small component.   They can ask  the system questions or requests such as to describe the surroundings.

The design of the system makes it unobtrusive with the idea that it won’t attract attention when being used in public.  The university researchers plan to open source the project which will allow for development from outside programmers.

A product like this is about quality of life.  It’s a great starting point for those who are visually imparied.  Like with most technology it will also eventually become smaller and this will reduce the overall size and power requirements.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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