High school students in Poland develop wearable technology to help blind people navigate their surroundings. The device, nicknamed 'Torch', uses infrared sensors attached to the head and chest which emit a sound or vibrate at increasing intensity as the wearer approaches an object -- much like the way torchlight illuminates whatever the beam is focused on. Matthew Stock has more.
Marek Zwolenkiewicz lost his sight 15 years ago and normally uses a white cane to help navigate his surroundings. Now, he's testing a new wearable device - nicknamed 'Torch' - that its designers from a Polish high school hope will improve his mobility. 'Torch' uses infrared sensors worn on the person's chest and head. When the wearer moves close to an obstacle, the device emits an audible or vibrating warning. Like a car sensor, the bleeps or vibrations increase as they get closer. UPSOT For Zwolenkiewicz, 'Torch' has been genuinely illuminating. (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) BLIND MAN, MAREK ZWOLENKIEWICZ, SAYING: "There was a time when I could see very well and whenever I was in a dark room and found a source of light I was relieved, I was saved because I could see. Right now this device is similar for me, when I move my head I find an obstacle - it's as if I was using a torch to light a spot." The students have filed for a patent of their device. Krzysztof Smyczek, the teacher overseeing the project, says the next prototype will have improved ultrasonic sensors, like those used in cars. (SOUNDBITE) (Polish) "TORCH" PROJECT PROMOTER, KRZYSZTOF SMYCZEK, SAYING: "We are still working to improve this torch. Currently, after tests, we want to replace the infrared sensors with ultrasound sensors, because we noticed that in rooms with white walls or in snow the sensors work with some kind of interference. And that's what we intend to eliminate by using ultrasound." The students also want to reduce the size of the device, making it more comfortable to wear and unobtrusive for the user. And while rigourous safety testing will be needed before it can go into production, the inventors hope 'Torch' will one day be a shining light for the blind.