Vaud: A smart harness to facilitate the mobility of the visually impaired

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VaudA smart harness to facilitate the mobility of the visually impaired

Vaud technology equipped with 3D cameras prevents the risk of hitting an obstacle thanks to a beep. Biped comes in addition to the white cane or the guide dog.

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Abdoulaye Penda Ndiaye

A team of engineers based in Épalinges (VD) has designed, in partnership with Jules-Gonin Ophthalmic Hospital de Lausanne, an intelligent harness that will facilitate the mobility of the blind and visually impaired. Day and night, the device of 900 grams with integrated 3D cameras beeps as soon as there is a direct obstacle.

The Vaud-based start-up employs five young full-time engineers.

biped.ai

Down and up

“It identifies holes or dangers above the torso, which the white cane cannot detect”, explains Maël Fabien, designer of the Biped and boss of the start-up of the same name. The Vaudois solution is not intended to replace the white cane or the guide dog but is “a complement to them”, wishes to specify the former EPFL doctoral student aged 26.

Anti-collision beep

As with cars during parking maneuvers, when an obstacle is identified, the user is warned by beeps, the frequency of which increases as the danger approaches. “The sound is higher if the obstacle is at head level, lower if it is at floor level. Biped only generates a warning if there is a risk of collision on the trajectory of the object”, underlines its designer.

Biped has real potential to become an all-in-one device.

Fatima Anaflous, low vision expert, Lausanne Eye Hospital

According to Fatima Anaflous, low vision expert at the Lausanne Ophthalmic Hospital, “Biped has real potential to become an all-in-one device”. The harness to put on the shoulders is equipped with a GPS. It does not just say where not to go, it also indicates where to go. A welcome help. “When Biped does not generate sounds, I feel safe”, testifies a blind user. No beep, no problem.

Tested in Lausanne, Zurich, USA

From 2021, some 250 blind and partially sighted people and low vision experts have taken part in tests in Lausanne, Zurich, Paris, London and California. Biped devices have already been sold in Switzerland, France, England and the Netherlands. A first fundraiser generated 850,000 francs. The second targets 1.3 million francs to support the marketing phase. With the American market in sight from 2024.

Discussions with the AI

The harness is free for the first thirty days. Then, the persons concerned have the choice between a referral or a monthly subscription of 129 francs. According to the Vaud-based start-up, which has five employees, contacts are underway so that its solution based on artificial intelligence can be covered by disability insurance (AI). In Switzerland, the supply of guide dogs being lower than the demand, the co-pilot Biped arrives at the right time. It could also be of interest to 270 million visually impaired people worldwide.

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Vaud: A smart harness to facilitate the mobility of the visually impaired


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