Gallery: Students Develop Radar Device to Help Blind People “See”


Students in Israel at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed new technology that allows blind people to “see” objects around them through a simple radar system. The device consists of a computer, two video cameras and a scanning light source that audibly alerts the individual of objects that are close in proximity. The system scans surrounding objects and their distance from two points, much like the human eyes. Currently, vision impaired people need either a sensor cane or a guide dog in order to walk freely, both of which take up the use of one hand. This invention could prove to change all of that.

The number of visually impaired people in the world is estimated as between 40 and 45 million. Previously there has been no effective replacement for the cane or guide dog. Many types of canes have been developed, some with sophisticated sensor technology and others that simply allow people to feel objects in their path. However, they only sense objects on ground level and they require constant action on the part of the user. Guide dogs are effective, but have disadvantages of their own. One of the largest is that they are partially color blind and can’t tell the difference between colored street signs, which could be a deadly disadvantage in an urban environment.

This new radar technology senses objects in a person’s normal field of vision. It will even sense overhead objects and anything to either side of the individual. The invention was unveiled at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering conference at Ben-Gurion University and was developed by Elad Kuperberg and Einav Tasa, with the supervision of Professor Shlomi Arnon. “This optical radar device is not only user friendly, but unlike the other solutions it allows the blind to have the use of both of their hands,” said Professor Arnon about the system. A smart and intuitive solution for a big problem, this new technology could revolutionize the lives of the vision impaired.

Via Science Daily


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  1. sachin agarwalla April 6, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Can you provide materials of this work?

  2. Kirsten Richards June 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I don’t think these inventors did enough research into O&M and how guide dogs and canes work. Step one in any engineering project is to correctly identify the problem. The dog doesn’t need to read traffic lights. Figuring out traffic is the job of the human handler. Radar can’t read the traffic lights changing color either.

    A beeping radar would not obviate the need for a cane to actually identify the nature of the obstacle. A guide dog can at least ease you around a sign post, but radar couldn’t tell the person the difference between a pole and a brick wall. Both a cane and a guide dog can.

    The photo is very obviously staged since the harness is incorrect (cutting into the dog’s throat), a person doesn’t use both a guide and a cane simultaneously (he would whack the dog with the cane with every other step), and a guide dog doesn’t require a second person to lead it. Since they didn’t have a real blind person for the photo, I wonder whether they actually interviewed any for the project or just made assumptions based on a sighted person’s view of the unsighted world. Four out of five legally blind people can see some colors, shapes, and movement, which seems to me would be an improvement on what radar can offer.

    What very limited vision cannot do is identify the presence of defects in the walking surface (cracks, potholes, curbs, steps). Both a long cane and a guide dog can do this very effectively. If a radar was set with sufficient sensitivity to detect all imperfections in surfaces it would be beeping nearly constantly and giving feedback on a lot of things not of interest to the blind person, such as defects in walls.

    It sounds like a neat idea, but not sufficiently researched nor effectively executed.

  3. gravityboy June 5, 2010 at 1:08 am

    I thought of this a long time ago.
    But you don’t need cameras and a lot of equipment.
    Use same idea as sonic tape measure and instead of digital LED readout it sounds different tones. You can also put a brail pad on the device and then the blind can actuallly get a piture of their surrondings by pointing the cigarette pack sized device in different directions with the brails bumps mattching the “picture” created by the scanning of the sonar.

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