Innovative students and professors at the University of Rochester have created a navigational assistant that can help inform a visually impaired person of his whereabouts, or even bring new dimensions to museum navigation or campus tours for sighted individuals. The system, nicknamed "NAVI" for Navigational Assistance for the Visually Impaired, uses radio signals to gauge when someone is near passive transponders that can be as small as a grain of rice and located on the outside of a building, on a specific door inside, or on a painting or object of interest. Biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering students in conjunction with professors created the device and have now applied for a patent on the technology.
"This is a wonderful example of our students taking theory from the classroom, knowledge of some of the difficulties faced by some groups of people, and combining that with existing devices to transform it into a real-world application that is of genuine usefulness to people," says Jack Mottley, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.
The system works like the security tags that are frequently on items in retail stores, or those used by certain gasoline stations and fast-food chains that allow you to wave a tiny wand near a detector on a gas pump or cash register. In those circumstances, a radio signal is beamed from the detectors by the door, gas pump, or cash register and is picked up and returned by a tag within a certain range. The security tags simply set off an alarm, while other tags can encode information, allowing the reader to debit your account for the sale.
Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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