A division of the Toyota Motor Corporation focused on robotics is developing a new type of wearable device designed to improve independence and mobility for the blind.
Worn around the shoulders, the device utilizes cameras, speakers and vibration motors to enable the device to communicate information to the user. In turn, the user interacts with the device through voice recognition and buttons.
Dubbed Project BLAID, the device is currently in early stage development within Toyota's Partner Robotics group. As development progresses, Toyota plans to add mapping, object identification and facial recognition technologies to make the device more intuitive.
A Toyota spokesperson explained that Project BLAID is not related to the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), the automaker's business unit dedicated to building out advanced vehicle-based technologies for safer driving. Toyota announced last year plans to pump $1 billion into TRI over the next five years to support the effort.
However, both reflect how Toyota is evolving from a car company to a mobility company.
The Japanese automaker has been working on the development of robotic helpers for the aging population for several years now. For instance, the automaker successfully developed the Human Support Robot to help the disabled or elderly live independently, as well as a range of prototype bots with the same goal.
"Toyota is more than just the great cars and trucks we build; we believe we have a role to play in addressing mobility challenges, including helping people with limited mobility do more," said Doug Moore, manager of Partner Robotics at Toyota. "We believe this project has the potential to enrich the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired."
Toyota said BLAID devices will enter beta testing in the near future.
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