Vibrating bracelets could help visually impaired people avoid collisions when riding their movements, according to a study.
According to the NHS , around 360,000 people in the UK alone are registered as blind or visually impaired, with long canes and dGuide dogs are among the methods used to help individuals avoid obstacles.
Today, researchers in the United States have developed a technological aid: a chest video camera - linked to a processing unit involving a computer vision algorithm - and a pair of vibrating bracelets.
When the system detects a hazard with which the wearer is configured to collide, the wristband on the same side as the hazard vibrates. If the obstacle is straight ahead, both bracelets vibrate.
The researchers said the device was not designed to replace canes or guide dogs, but rather to provide additional benefits, including helping porters avoid above-ground hazards.
Writing in the journal Jama Opthamology , the researchers reported that a study of 368 hours of walking video data from 31 blind or visually impaired participants indicate that the approach might be helpful.
After a training period, each participant used the system for approximately four weeks, in addition of his cane or guide dog. During this time, the system switched without warning between "active" mode - during which the bracelets vibrate when a danger was detected - and "silent" mode, where they did not.
The researchers then analyzed the data to see if the rate of contact between the user's body or cane was and the objects identified by the system differed between the two scenarios.
When they examined a random sample of collision warnings for each participant, its found that these contacts were reduced by 37% when the system was in active mode, taking into account factors such as the visual acuity level of the participants.
" In their comments, they mentioned that the device was useful when walking in stores - shelves, protruding items, warning for approaching pedestrians, overhanging branches and in crowded and unfamiliar areas, " said Dr Shrinivas Pundlik, co-author of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital study.
However, the authors noted that the study had limitations, including that the device may not have detected all possible dangers.
Robin Spinks, Policy Officer, Royal National Institute for the Blind for innovation partnerships, which was not involved in the work, welcomed the study, noting that unlike other options foravailable, the system only warns of approaching obstacles that present a risk of collision.
"Smart wearable technology offers enormous potential for blind and visually impaired people to be able to get out and move around independently, and of course being able to avoid obstacles and collisions is a very important part of that, "he said.