Who knew that Microsoft’s humble Kinect sensor could be hacked to do so much more than just impair your dancing skills? So far just in medicine, we’ve seen the Kinect used as a touch-free image browser, an augmented reality CT viewer, a force feedback sensor for robotic surgery, and a program to actually control these surgical robots, including the da Vinci robot.
The latest comes from the University of Konstanz in Germany. Engineers there have wired up a Kinect sensor to help improve indoor navigation for the visually impaired. The project, called NAVI (Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired) consists of a helmet-mounted Kinect sensor connected to a computer in a backpack, a special belt containing vibration motors to warn the users of obstacles ahead and to the sides, and a Bluetooth headset to provide verbal feedback. Altogether, the device can help someone visually impaired navigate to a specific location, GPS-style, with tactile and verbal warnings of objects in their path. The system can even detect barcoded signs which could provide further information to the user.
Check out the video of the system in action:
Blog entry from the University of Konstanz: NAVI – Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired – A student project in the course Blended Interaction