How glasses and the navigator help the blind to move

How glasses and the navigator help the blind to move

An electronic device helps to bring a person to the address and tell him about what is around. In plans to turn it into a personal assistant for the blind, having equipped with additional functions

Six years ago, developers from St. Petersburg came up with a way to help blind and visually impaired people navigate the streets of the city. To do this, they created a special navigator and glasses to them, which were called Oriense.

The uniqueness of the device lies in the fact that it is developed by blind people who know by experience how difficult it is for a person with visual problems to navigate in space. Today, Oriense is working on a new version of the device, which should become better and more functional.

Electronic Guide Dog

The idea to create a device for the blind and visually impaired appeared in 2012. We made computer vision for robots, and decided to do for people, says Oriense CEO Vitaly Chinayev.

The Oriense team is a resident of Skolkovo, a graduate of the start-accelerator iDealMachine, a participant in the START program of the Assistance Fund, a prize-winner of Russian and international technological competitions. The company accounts for about 120 devices created, users of which are residents of Russia and CIS countries.

The development itself is an endless process that stretches from version to version. Now we are designing a new version of the device, which is expected to be released this year, says Vitaly Kitaev.

The production of one device takes about three months. Three hardware engineers and three software engineers work on its creation. The development takes place on the basis of the Research Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics of St. Petersburg.

Oriense is a navigation device that is designed to guide a blind person in space. It consists of two components – it’s the GPS-navigator OrNavi (or the board-computer) and glasses with OrCV cameras that connect to the navigator.

Navigator is designed to bring a person to the address and tell him about what is around. It uses detailed maps (for example, Open Space Map) – up to trees and benches in the park, not to mention shops, public buildings and public transport stops, says one of the project developers Maxim Spiridonov.


Photo: Oriense, navigator OrNavi

“All this is useful and necessary information for a person who can not see the world around him. A blind person also likes to walk, he needs to move around the city, and it is important to understand what is going on around him. The navigator helps to do this, he acts as a kind of guide, “says Maxim Spiridonov.

The second component is glasses with two built-in video cameras that monitor the real situation on the road or a module with OrCV cameras.

For example, if a pit or pole appears on the way of a person, the device will see it and warn. Also, with the help of the camera, the device can determine the denomination of the note, the color of the clothes, the goods on the bar code, read the QR code and the signboard. In this case, the camera will tell you how to keep it properly so that the inscription itself gets into focus.


Photo: Oriense, module with OrCV cameras (glasses)

“This is a kind of electronic guide dog. Moreover, the device has enough unique functions – it not only warns about the obstacle, but also tells you which side of the hindrance can be circumvented, “says Maxim Spiridonov.

“The Navigator does not completely remove the moment when you need to find the entrance to the building”

Deal with the navigator, and get used to it is easy, and we try to do everything for this, say the developers.

Throughout the journey – from the desire to purchase the device and throughout the entire use – we accompany a person. If he has any questions, he can always ask us for help.

“I myself am also a blind person, everything I do, I directly test myself. I deal with the navigation system and the development of maps. My sighted colleague – Elena Yagubova, for example, is engaged in computer vision. It is the eyes of our company, “says Maxim Spiridonov.

Of course, the navigator needs to learn how to use, as this is a technical device. Now we hold focus groups for different ages. Recently, for example, we gave the navigator to the school of the blind in St. Petersburg, where the children tested it for a month. We will consider their opinion when we improve the device.

With young people, there are no special difficulties – they quickly learn technical innovations. The elderly, of course, are more difficult. We try to be extremely attentive to them – we teach them and live, we consult on Skype and on the phone.

Also we make audio-tutorials that help to master the device. There is an idea to create video tutorials, so that they can be used by sighted relatives, and then tell their relatives. Many people think that the device should reach the address and put a hand on the door handle, but it is not. The device can give a small error (around 10 meters), but it can be significant for the blind.

Therefore, the navigator does not completely remove the moment when you need to find the entrance to the building. These things need to be explained to man. We have ideas on how to improve this, and in the future we plan to do it, the authors of the project say.

Without the support of the state,

To date, the price of the kit is 39 thousand rubles – 24 thousand is a navigator, 15 thousand – glasses themselves. For a blind person, an expensive device is quite expensive, says Maxim Spiridonov. And without state support or social services, units can buy it.

According to WHO, today around 45 million people in the world can not see, another 135 million people have various eye defects. By 2020, the number of blind people in the world can grow to 75 million people, and the visually impaired – up to 200 million people.

In Russia, according to experts, the number of absolutely blind people reaches 100 thousand people, about 600 thousand people have a vision impairment. At the same time, every second person has vision problems.

But there are no government subsidies that could cover the full or partial cost of the device for the visually impaired.

There is a list of technical means for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities approved by the state, which help them in their daily life, at work, and at school. For the blind person in it the white cane, a guide dog, about any navigating devices in it is not present also speech is registered. To ensure that the cost of the navigator is covered by budgetary funds, you need to get into this list. And this is something incredible, says the developer. Plus the list itself is almost not updated.

At the same time, if we talk about the financial component, then the guide dog, for example, costs the state much more expensively. Only her training costs about 600 thousand rubles. In addition, not everyone can get a dog, because care is required for it.

We tried to develop the idea with support. For example, we have experience of cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, but he did not give any results. There are users who helped to buy the device regional authorities. But these were small parties – up to five devices.

Also we had a project on the platform-fed platform Planeta. He allowed a blind person to pay one-third of the cost of the device, the rest was covered from the collected funds. The experiment, of course, exhausted us, but was a success – 20 people were able to get navigators.

In plans to turn Orience into a personal assistant

What the company Orience is doing today is not done by anyone not only in Russia, but also in the West. There are companies that develop separate glasses or navigators, but such an integrated device yet.

For example, in Russia there is a developer who makes similar glasses, says Maxim Spiridonov. But he uses ultrasonic sensors in them, and we have video cameras that give more possibilities: for example, they allow you to recognize objects – to distinguish a pit from a ladder. The ultrasonic system can not do this.


Photo: Oriense presentation

We are trying to move to Western markets, because getting into the state program is much easier. For this, for example, you need to collect the necessary number of signatures of blind people (about 50) that support the device.

Foreign partners show interest to Oriense. Now we communicate with Western rehabilitation centers and insurance companies that deal with these issues. These are countries such as the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland.

But the European market has size requirements – they want the device to be more compact. Therefore, we are now all the forces thrown on the development of the third version of the navigator, which will be much smaller and more modern, says the developer.

The software part itself will also change. There is an idea to add the function of a flash player that could sound audiobooks – so that a blind person can move around while listening to books. Even in the plans to add a voice recorder function. Many blind students in lectures often use dictaphone, this would help them in their studies.

“In general, I want this device to be a kind of assistant, which helped to travel, move, study, work,” notes Maxim Spiridonov.

Not a replacement for the white cane, but an assistant to her

The users themselves are satisfied with the device and say that it gives them more independence and allows them to paint a world that they can not see.

The only remark is the size. But the developers are already engaged in this issue and in the future promise to make the Orience more compact and functional.

When buying Oriense did not fully understand, it is useful to me or not. But the device really helps, says Oleg Puzynia, who has been using Oriense for more than a year.

“For example, thanks to the navigator you can find many objects yourself, which can not be found without help. In this sense, the device itself gives more independence. And in general with the help of it you can just study – that’s where, “says Oleg Puzynya. The only thing I would like is a more ergonomic design, but otherwise everything is fine, he notes.

The device is convenient in terms of functionality, but there are claims to the size and weight, says expert in the field of technical solutions to improve the comfort of people who are blind, teacher, user Oriense Aliya Nurullina. I always have a lot of things in my bag and so the navigator adds a lot of weight, she admits.

“The navigator itself does not just orientate, but draws a picture of the terrain. I see around which objects I pass or pass. For example, I go, and the navigator tells me – here’s the cafe, here’s the store. I have a picture. And next time I already know, here somewhere near there is a cafe “, – shares her impressions Aliya Nurullina.

Navigator can be used without glasses, which I did. I have residual vision, so I do not need glasses. However, one important thing to consider is that the navigator is not a replacement for the white cane, the expert points out. It is a very good auxiliary tool, supplementing the cane. Not always there are people who can ask, there is not always a desire to ask. Navigator in this regard will always help.

The device will find its audience, Alia Nurullina is sure. But without the support of the state and social programs, this can not be done, she says, because today it is inaccessible to many.

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