BGU students develop ways to help the blind and deaf

One new device uses combined images taken from two different angles – like human eyes.

deaf drivers device 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
deaf drivers device 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An optical radar system that can help the blind maneuver around obstacles using the scanning of bifocal, in-depth images has been developed by Ben-Gurion University electrical engineering students.
The new device uses combined images taken from two different angles – like human eyes – and its developers say it’s better than other systems available to help the blind get around.
The system will be put on display on Monday as part of the annual conference of projects in the department of electrical engineering and computers at the Beersheba university. It is based on a computer, two video cameras and a light scanner source and will warn the blind about obstacles – even those overhead – with audible signals. It was developed by Elad Kuperberg and Einav Tasa under the supervision of Prof. Shlomi Arnon.
The number of blind people in the world is estimated at 40 million to 45 million, and in Israel there are around 26,000. Many types of assistance “devices,” from a seeing-eye dog to sticks equipped with sensors, are available to help them avoid obstacles as they go about. But Arnon noted that they all have disadvantages – a dog needs a long period of expensive training and can work for an average of only seven years. In addition, there is a severe shortage of guide dogs, with only 200 blind people owning one. The special sticks cannot identify barriers at heights but only at floor level, and their use requires a lot of skills. All these restrict the use of one hand, he added.
Other BGU engineering students, Eilat Geva and Oren Kirlis, developed a “Siren Aid” for deaf drivers. It gives a visual image of sounds around the vehicle, based on two microphones attached to the windows, a central processing system and a visual screen on the front panel. The deaf driver can in real time identify the power, direction and type of sound – such as a siren or horn – in the vicinity.
About 90 projects developed by 155 engineering students will be presented at the conference; some of them are theoretical and others practical in the fields of electrical circuits and supply, microelectronics, control, communications, signal processing, computers, electromagnetics and electro-optics. Some of the projects, said Prof. Dan Sadot, head of the electrical and computer engineering at BGU, have been carried out in cooperation with private industry, giving students the possibility of easily finding a workplace after graduation.