Vibrating Clothes Could Help Blind People Navigate

vibrating clothes blind navigateThe New York-based company Tactile Navigation Tools is developing a hands-free wearable device that uses sensors to detect obstacles and can alert the wearer to them with vibrations. Known as Eyeronman, the device could aid not only the blind, but also firefighters, soldiers and others, its developers say.

About 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization. Yet in developed countries, most blind people still navigate using the standard white cane, which was invented in 1921.

When soldiers return from war, “the ones with limb loss are getting expensive devices, but the ones with vision loss — we’re giving them a stick,” said Dr. JR Rizzo, a rehabilitation doctor at NYU Langone Medical Center and the company’s founder and chief medical adviser. “It’s a little ridiculous,” he said.

When Rizzo was 15 years old, he was diagnosed with choroideremia, a rare retinal degenerative disease that causes progressive vision loss, and he is now legally blind. He thinks blind people should have more advanced sensory prostheses.

“I don’t care what the vision loss is from,” Rizzo told Live Science. The goal is to increase mobility and get people integrated back into society, he said.

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