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Machine Vision System Could Help the Visually Impaired Shop For Food


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Graduate student Siddharth Advani displays a webcam-equipped haptic glove he helped design to help visually-impaired people shop for groceries.

Pennsylvania State University researchers are working on the development of a device to help the visually impaired shop for food without assistance.

Credit: Patrick Mansell

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) are working to develop a device that could help the visually impaired shop for food independently. The project is part of the broader Visual Cortex on Silicon initiative, a multi-institution and multi-disciplinary project to find ways of emulating the way the human visual cortex processes visual information.

More specifically, the project, known informally by the researchers as Third Eye, seeks to develop a system that can emulate the human visual cortex's two general modes of attention: the bottom up mode used to survey a scene for something interesting and the top down mode used to try and find a specific item.

The Penn State project, dubbed Third Eye-VI, is specifically focused on finding a technological way to allow the visually impaired to browse store shelves and find the specific food items they want. So far, it has yielded a prototype device in the form of a haptic glove with a camera mounted just above the palm. When the user reaches for an item, the camera is able to perceive what it is they are reaching and guide them towards it by vibrating. On the software side, the prototype was able to recognize 87 grocery items with a high degree of precision as of last December.

From Penn State News
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