We don’t normally endorse hacking, but every once in a while we let it slide if it’s for a good cause. Well, two German college students have definitely come up with a fine cause: they hacked a Microsoft Kinect to create an assistive device for the blind.
Their work is part of the NAVI project (Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired), and utilizes a Kinect mounted onto a helmet, a vibrating belt and a laptop to guide blind individuals through a room.
See, it works because the Kinect’s cameras can both re-create a room’s layout and determine the depth of other objects, based on how far the user is standing from them. This information is sent to a laptop, which the participant carries in a backpack.
Once analyzed, a command is sent to one of three sensors on the vibrating belt. When these sensors vibrate the individual will know that they need to turn left, turn right or continue forward. The college students also integrated audio cues, which are delivered via Bluetooth headset.
We realize that wearing a Kinect on your head, a laptop on your back and vibrating sensors around your mid-section aren’t ideal in the real world. However, this prototype clearly shows how useful and valuable these technologies can be for people who need a little extra help.
If two college students had the technological prowess to create an innovative and helpful (albeit bulky) device for the blind out of a video game system, just think what the future could hold!