Innovation Enables the Blind to Enjoy the View from a Car Window
Ford Europe wants to help blind passengers ‘see’ while they travel. This major automotive manufacturer has unveiled the prototype for a device that will make it possible for passengers with visual impairments to enjoy the view from a car window. The innovative smart sensory device is called Feel the View.
Feel the View: How it Works
Feel the View mounts to the top of a passenger window in the car. With the press of a button, a camera facing outside takes an image of the current landscape beyond the car and converts it into a black and white picture.
It then utilizes powerful LED lights embedded into the device to reconstruct the image and translate the various shades of grey into vibrations. There is a range of more than 250 different types of programmed vibrations varying in intensity and frequency. The darker the hue, the slower the vibration.
Like a touchscreen, the Feel the View device tracks the finger’s movement on the window. As their hand passes, vibrations are sent from the device through the glass in a pattern revealing the image of the view just outside the car’s window. In this way, visually impaired passengers can touch the window and sense the shapes and textures of the landscape as they travel along.
The prototype of Feel the View is also able to recognize the figures in any image captured. Using artificial intelligence, the system can then compose an audio description of the current view out the window. It then delivers the description using the car’s stereo system.
Feel the View is a relatively small device – about the length of a standard vehicle’s passenger window and nearly one inch thick.
Designed to Make Car Travel More Accessible
The Ford company has a reputation for developing experimental devices. For this project, GTB Roma, Ford’s Italian division, collaborated with Aedo, a little Italian startup company that specializes in technological devices which help the partially or fully blind.
Their goal for Feel the View is to bring accessibility to car travel for those who are visually impaired. The device essentially lets you feel the landscape through a vehicle window.
“We seek to make people’s lives better and this was a fantastic opportunity to help blind passengers experience a great aspect of driving,” said Marco Alù Saffi, a Ford spokesperson. “The technology is advanced, but the concept is simple—and could turn mundane journeys into truly memorable ones.”
The Future of Accessibility and Automotive Innovation
For now, Feel the View is only a prototype and there’s no news on when it will go into mass production or if it will become available as an optional feature on new vehicle models.
Other technological developments on the horizon for the automotive industry hold a lot of promise for the visually impaired. For example, many advocates for the blind community are excited about self-driving vehicles, saying that they will be transformative and grant a new level of independence.
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