Toyota’s first wearable has nothing to do with cars but a lot to do with mobility.
Project Blaid is designed to help people who are blind or visually impaired to make their way through the world more easily. The device is a light, U-shaped yoke that fits around the user’s neck and over the shoulders. It can recognize common shapes and signs, and fills in information by voice or vibration about the space in which a user finds himself—information that is not accessible via a cane or guide dog.
“The way it works now it is an informational device to bridge the gap between a cane or a guide dog,” said Doug Moore, manager of Toyota’s Partner Robotics. “Often the challenge is large open spaces such as an airport or a mall where there isn’t a wall to follow. [Project Blaid] is intended to work in that way to give more information about their environment.”
The device is the result of four year’s collaboration between Toyota scientists and engineers and people who are visually challenged. Feedback has been positive, but Toyota execs say this is more of a project than a product, so there’s no sign it will be available any time soon.
Blaid is clearly an outgrowth of the corporate social responsibility concept, and none the worse for that. It is equally clear that the technology involved can be applied down the line to robotics and driverless cars. Isn’t it nice when corporations and people can all win at the same time?