This smart harness could change the lives of blind people

MOBILITY – Pedestrians, sidewalks, vehicles or street furniture… It is not always easy for a visually impaired person to move around in a new environment, even less when the city is not designed for them. An invention could change the game and allow more independence and freedom in this situation: “Biped”, an ultra-technological harness.

As you can see in our video at the top of the article, “Biped” was imagined by two engineers, Maël Fabien, a 25-year-old Breton, and Bruno Vollmer, a 28-year-old German. The two men met in Switzerland during their studies and created their start-up in January 2021 in Lausanne, which now has 5 employees.

Artificial intelligence used in autonomous vehicles

Since then, the 900 gram device is in its fourth prototype. Composed of three stereo cameras, for depth of field, and infrared for night vision, it uses artificial intelligence capable of predicting flows like autonomous vehicles. The data is transformed into 3D sounds in the user’s headset.

“There are three main categories of obstacles: vehicles, people and street furniture.” explains Bruno Vollmer, “We use the HRTF technique, transfer function relative to the head (ed.), to give a sensation of 3D sounds and that the person thus understands his environment.”

The harness has already been tested by more than seventy blind or visually impaired people in the United States and Europe with the participation of associations and as well as the ophthalmic hospital of Lausanne. Its objective is not to replace the cane or the guide dog but to provide “additional help, especially when traveling in new and unfamiliar environments”, specifies Maël Fabien.

Reimbursement by health insurance

The device will be offered at a single price of 2900 euros or via a subscription of one hundred euros per month until reimbursement. But in several European countries, such as France, “Biped” could be reimbursed by social security.

“We are working on the classification of the harness as a class 1 medical device, i.e. an obstacle detector” explains the young entrepreneur, “the first countries concerned should be Switzerland, the Netherlands or the France. ”

Its software will continue to be modified and improved taking into account the comments of users who will update themselves via the bluetooth of their phone. The marketing in Europe of “Biped” should begin in September 2022 before attacking the American market.

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This smart harness could change the lives of blind people

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