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Electronic eye devised to help blind cross roads

Researchers from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan developed an "electronic eye" which uses a camera and computer to detect the location of a pedestrian crossing, its width and the color of any related traffic lights.
/ Source: Reuters

An "electronic eye" that can be fitted to a pair of glasses could help the blind cross roads more safely, scientists said on Friday.

Researchers from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Japan developed the system, which uses a camera and computer to detect the location of a pedestrian crossing, its width and the color of any related traffic lights.

"The camera would be mounted at eye level, and be connected to a tiny computer.  It will relay information using a voice speech system and give vocal commands and information through a small speaker placed near the ear," Professor Tadayoshi Shioyama, one of its developers, said in a statement.

The camera devised by Shioyama and Mohammad Uddin is described in the journal Measurement Science and Technology, published by Britain's Institute of Physics.

"They have combined these three things in one camera and one computer," said a spokesman for the institute.  "The camera can now give these bits of information at once and that gives every piece of information needed to cross the road safely.  That is why it is such a big breakthrough."

In tests of the system, the scientists said it successfully detected the location of crossings 194 out of 196 times.  In two cases it mistakenly said there wasn't a crossing where there was one.

The scientists are now working on the best way to incorporate the device into a comfortable pair of glasses that a blind person can wear.

"Mobility is a serious issue for blind and partially sighted people and new tools like this that may help people with sight problems get around safely are always welcome," said Katherine Phipps, of the Royal National Institute of the Blind.