Car manufacturer Toyota is developing a wearable mobility device that will enable the visually impaired to navigate indoor spaces more easily.

Called Project BLAID, the new wearable mobility device is worn around the user’s shoulders and helps them to better navigate indoor spaces, such as office buildings and shopping malls. Users are able to interact with the device through voice recognition and buttons.

“We want to extend the freedom of mobility for all, no matter their circumstance, location or ability,” said Toyota North America Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Simon Nagata.

Toyota says the device will help fill the gaps left by canes, dogs and basic GPS devices by providing users with more information about their surroundings.

A camera detects the user’s surroundings and communicates the information through speakers and vibration motors. The device also identifies important features indoors such as restrooms, escalators, stairs and doors.

Future plans for the wearable include integrating mapping, object identification and facial recognition technologies.

As part of Project BLAID, Toyota is launching an employee engagement campaign that invites team members to submit videos of common indoor landmarks. These videos will subsequently be used by Project BLAID developers to “teach” the device to better recognise these landmarks.

“We believe we have a role to play in addressing mobility challenges, including helping people with limited mobility do more. We believe this project has the potential to enrich the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired,” concluded Manager of the Partner Robot Division at Toyota, Doug Moore.

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