The Austrian firm Tec-Innovation has developed an intelligent shoe designed to detect obstacles.
"InnoMake" has been available on the marketplace for a short time now as an approved medical product. It is intended to make the personal mobility of blind and visually impaired people safer. Thanks to built-in ultrasonic sensors, the shoe warns the wearer about obstacles. Computer scientists at the Graz University of Technology have now developed a camera-based AI image recognition system. "Ultrasonic sensors on the toe of the shoe detect obstacles up to four metres away. The wearer is then warned by vibration and/or acoustic signals. This works very well and is already a great help to me personally", says Markus Raffer, one of the founders of Tec-Innovation, who is himself visually impaired.
After an active search, Tec-Innovation was able to win over Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) as a cooperation partner in 2016. Since then, the university's Institute of Computer Graphics and Vision has been working on a camera-based addition to the first version of the product. For this purpose, state-of-the-art deep-learning algorithms modelled on neural networks were developed. that can do two main things after detecting and interpreting the content of the image. They use camera images from the foot perspective to determine an area that is free of obstacles and thus safe to walk on. The algorithms trained using machine learning can already be operated on a specially designed mobile system. Thanks to the latest powerful special processors, the mobile use of the complex AI algorithms is now also possible.
Tec-Innovation is now working on integrating the system into a prototype camera plus processor, which must be robustly and comfortably integrated into the shoe. The next step involves combining the information collected while wearing the shoe into a kind of street view navigation map for visually impaired people.
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