Health and medicine

The cognitive guide

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This year’s World of Watson in Las Vegas brought together companies from around the world already taking advantage of cognitive computing in the  Cognitive Concourse. Among them, Carnegie Mellon University showcased their app to support the visually impaired. I met with Dragan Ahmetoric, a postdoctoral fellow of the Robotics Institute, to hear about an exciting new app to help the visually impaired.

Cognitive capabilities guide the visually impaired

A cognitive guide for the visually impaired

Dragan and a team of students at Carnegie Mellon have worked on ‘NavCog’, a turn-by-turn smartphone navigation assistant for the visually impaired or blind. Bluetooth beacons are placed within an environment. A smart-phone app picks up the data from the beacons to orientate a user within their environment. The smartphone can work out where it is and offer ‘turn left in x paces’ type guidance with accuracy within one meter. For users of the app more familiar with a guide stick, one meter would be a comfortable distance to work within.

Step by step instructions guide the way

A second feature of the app is that it can ‘see’ its environment. In the video above, you can see an example of a set of shelves stacked with cereal. A user could visit a store and use a voice command to look for cereal. The app would know where the cereal was located and guide the user there with voice instructions.

An app that ‘sees’ what’s on shelves

Once in front of the shelf, the app can also guide the user to specific items on that shelf. The app then goes further to use the camera to ‘look’ at an individual box of cereal and give the user a lot of information about the contents. A cognitive capability that will be extremely useful for the visually impaired.

You can find out more about this, and other companies using cognitive computing at the World of Watson Cognitive Concourse site.

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