[nfb-talk] Interesting Electronic Travel Aid

Jack Heim john at johnheim.com
Fri May 5 17:29:14 UTC 2017

These are both existing technologies. It would be kind of weird to call 
it light but radar, which has existed for 80 years, bounces radio waves 
off objects. Radio waves and visible light are both part of the 
electromagnetic spectrum. So the device could essentially be radar. The 
other possibility of using ambient light would essentially be the 
technology used for driverless cars. Possibly they essentially took the 
technology being developed for driverless cars and wrote a simple, 
scaled down version for the device. The amount of light is only a very 
tiny issue since cameras can detect light at much lower levels than the 
human eye.

If I had to guess, I'd go with possibility, #2, the driverless car 
technology. You can probably just download computer code that can tell 
when a person walks in front of a camera. The processing that is done 
for driverless cars is way more extensive than that, of course.  But you 
could probably use existing code and published research to do some 
rudimentary image processing and then turn that into feedback via 
vibrations. I'm not saying it would be easy but it's not a moon shot.
On 05/05/2017 11:32 AM, Buddy Brannan via nfb-talk wrote:
> Hi Judy,
> These would only be disadvantages if it used ambient light. They don't speciy, but I suspect that they use light in the same way that they previously, and as other products have, used ultrasound. That is, generating light at some specific wavelengths and measuring what comes back. If we're talking about 4 meter distances, or something like 15 feet, it seems to me that you wouldn't need anything very intense. Also, is it visual light? UV light? Infrared? They don't say, although I suspect it's probably wavelengths outside the usual spectrum that would bother or distract humans. So there may well be technical limitations, such as with interference of some sort, but I suspect the design would have to minimize those as much as possible, for instance, by transmitting and isolating very specific wavelengths in a relatively short range. This probably takes some computing ower, and it's fortunate that processor chips are becoming so tiny and powerful.
> Mind you, this is all speculation on my part, and I'm no engineer. Sort of like I'm no lawyer.
> --
> Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV - Erie, PA
> Phone: 814-860-3194
> Mobile: 814-431-0962
> Email: buddy at brannan.name
>> On May 5, 2017, at 11:59 AM, Judy Jones via nfb-talk <nfb-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> I can see some drawbacks right away with the walk pro using light.  For
>> instance, how will you navigate with at night?  When going from a sunny side
>> of the street into, say, a darkened theater, or to the shady side of the
>> street, is there any lagtime for the unit to catch up in navigation?
>> Judy
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: nfb-talk [mailto:nfb-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Buddy
>> Brannan via nfb-talk
>> Sent: Friday, May 5, 2017 4:02 AM
>> To: nfbp-talk at yahoogroups.com; NFB Talk Mailing List; NAGDU Mailing List,
>> the National Association of Guide Dog Users
>> Cc: Buddy Brannan; International : Embro S
>> Subject: [nfb-talk] Interesting Electronic Travel Aid
>> Hi y'all,
>> A couple weeks ago, something came to my attention that, if it really lives
>> up to what they promise, could finally be something actually innovative in
>> electronic travel aids.
>> For a while now, we've all seen that next great new thing that will promise
>> to reduce or even eliminate the need for a white cane or guide dog, or so
>> the popular press surrounding such announcements would usually have it.
>> These things always had one really glaring problem. Well, a couple of them,
>> but one huge problem. They would detect obstacles, but that didn't help much
>> for things like steps, curbs, dropoffs, holes, and terrain changes, things
>> that a cane, or a guide dog, alert to in the natural course of their use.
>> I've said that whole time that if someone can crack that particular problem,
>> I'd be interested in listening, but until then, I didn't consider any of
>> these supposedly helpful products terribly interesting. Especially since
>> many of them would take up a hand, and you're already using one of those for
>> a cane or guide dog.
>> A couple weeks ago, a startup in India started following me on Twitter, and
>> I started looking at what they were doing. Oh, look, it's another electronic
>> travel aid. But, wait, they claim what? That you can *run* without the need
>> for a cane? Color me skeptical. I asked for more information, and got it
>> yesterday. I also called and managed to have a chat with the CEO of the
>> company, Live Braille (or Embro...I see both names, but it's
>> livebraille.com). Here's what I've found out.
>> For the past year, this company has made a wearable electronic travel aid
>> called Live Braille Mini. Very like other similar things, it uses sound to
>> detect obstacles at up to 3.5 meters away in long range mode, or 1.5 meters
>> in short range mode. That's close to 12 feet and about 4.5 feet,
>> respectively. But then, it gets interesting. First, it really is wearable,
>> as it's a ring you wear on your finger. I expect it's a rather large ring,
>> but nonetheless, a ring, massing 29 grams, or weighing just a smidge over an
>> ounce, according to Google. Using various vibration patterns, they claim
>> something like 117 distinct patterns, and sensing at 50 times a second, the
>> company claims one can not only detect the distance from an above ground
>> obstacle, but also its speed, and even what kind of obstacle it is, as you
>> can get an idea of your environment by waving your hand. There's apparently
>> a video of a blind kid chasing a sighted volunteer using only the Live
>> Braille Mini. Pretty impressive, especially for $299.
>> But here's the really interesting bit. I'm told a newer product will ship in
>> July. The Live Braille Walk Pro is also a ring. It's smaller than the Mini,
>> runs for two hours on a charge, but comes with a charging case that extends
>> that by quite a lot. Like the mini, it uses vibration to indicate speed,
>> distance, etc. Unlike the Mini, however, it uses light rather than
>> ultrasound. This means it's water resistant, perhaps even waterproof, and,
>> I'm told, the performance should not degrade over time as a device using
>> ultrasound would. It also will detect ground level obstacles like steps,
>> holes, curbs, and the like. The cost for the new device is considerably
>> higher, at a retail of $1499 and a preorder price of $1199, but it comes
>> with insurance and a lifetime warranty, as well as a personal setup and
>> orientation call. "Think of it as like buying a high end luxury car", said
>> Mr. CEO.
>> So, putting my money, literally, where my mouth is, after saying that an ETA
>> that would detect steps and such would be worth something, I bought one at
>> the preorder price. I'm the ninth person to order one, so this is pretty
>> new. The company tells me that there are 10,000 or so Live Braille Minis out
>> in the world, in the hands of blind people inIndia, the UK, and South
>> America.
>> The website is clearly not designed with a thought that blind people might
>> use it. There is, for example, a video that autoplays but has no nonvisual
>> content that's useful to tell what it's showing, just music. There are
>> unlabeled graphics. There are tables used for layout. Even so, I was able to
>> place my order and do a bit of reading. The site is at
>> http://www.livebraille.com
>> If you're the adventurous type and want to buy either a Mini or preorder a
>> Walk Pro, you can, and you can even get a discount. There's a bit of a
>> misprint if you select to preorder a Walk Pro. It says the preorder price is
>> $300 on the radio button to select the preorder, but it corrects in your
>> cart to show the actual price of $1199. Payment is through Paypal, which
>> means you can use Paypal Credit if you want to pay it off over time.
>> For $59 off the preorder of the Walk Pro, use this coupon code:
>> For $29 off the purchase of a Mini (which is in current production), use
>> this coupon code:
>> X29Y86K9PRLV
>> If, on the other hand, you're justifiably skeptical but are interested in
>> what happens when it releases, I'll definitely be sharing my experience with
>> the Walk Pro when it gets here.
>> BTW, no, I'm not planning to give up my guide dog. This does, however,
>> appear to be the year for technology, since I'm also getting Aira in June,
>> and then there are these low cost braille displays. And also the Tap virtual
>> keyboard. ...
>> Happy travels,
>> --
>> Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV - Erie, PA
>> Phone: 814-860-3194
>> Mobile: 814-431-0962
>> Email: buddy at brannan.name
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