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A Car for the Blind

Named as the Da Vinci of Humanoid Robots, Dr. Dennis Hong is busy designing a car for the blind. (name given by Washington Post)

Motivated by the long-term goal of providing blind people the opportunity to perform a variety of everyday activities independently and safely, Hong decided to start by designing a car for the blind.

In a Ted talk on 4 March 2011 Dr. Hong shared the design behind the car. It would use robotics, laser rangefinders, GPS and smart feedback tools.  It’s not a “self-driving” car, but a car in which a non-sighted driver can determine speed, proximity and route – and drive independently.

A range of equipment and tools will enable a blind driver to determine his or her environment, surrounding objects (both moving and stationary) and speed. Some of these include a pair of gloves that sends messages to a driver and various video cameras that produce specific sounds based on what is captured on film.

While Dennis Hong’s innovative technology does not make it legal for the blind to drive on the roads, it represents a tremendous breakthrough in the quality of life for those who are visually impaired.

Dennis Hong is Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, is the founder of ROMELA (Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory) at the University. He is the first person of Korean descent to speak at the world renowned TED conference. It was Star Wars which planted a sci-fi seed in him as a child, which eventually led to a full grown reality.

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