Blind and partially sighted people regain freedom of movement with their feet

Blind and partially sighted people regain freedom of movement with their feet

The technology behind self-driving cars led to the idea of ​​making a kind of belt for the blind and visually impaired. Co-founder Mael Fabien explains how the Swiss company Biped works.

How did the idea come to you?

Watching videos about self-driving cars and their progress in San Francisco made me think, ‘How can we use this technology for the blind and visually impaired? “If we can drive cars ourselves, could this technology also be used to give blind and visually impaired people autonomy and freedom of movement? I reached out to a friend I knew through a hackathon about this. We realized it had potential as a startup after we wrote some code and made a prototype. In January 2021 He moved to Switzerland from Germany, and now we are working full time on two legs.”

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What sets Qdameen apart from other companies that develop products for the blind and visually impaired?

“We offer one solution that is ready to go. There are already many other innovations that support our target group, but this is the gist: These systems don’t work together. You have electronic walking sticks that vibrate close to objects, smart glasses that detect faces and QR codes, GPS devices and so on. “But you can’t process vibration and sound at the same time while also listening to your smart glasses. Our shield is equipped with 3D cameras, detects moving objects and predicts where they’re going, and a battery that lasts up to six hours.”

Did you test the prototype with the target group?

“Before we got started with the software and hardware, we asked Jules Gonin Eye Hospital in Lausanne what they thought of our idea. We have worked closely with them since then. The prototype has now been tested by fifty people from the target group. We are now working on the fifth incremental development, and it has End users and experts were consulted on all versions.Feedback is positive.They indicate that they have more insight and awareness of their environment when they are on the street or in a new environment, they can anticipate better and therefore feel more secure.We are now looking at how to improve the ergonomics of the belt. We are now finalizing our latest prototype, which includes ergonomic improvements.Many end users said they dreamed of one day running around the stadium.We also want to expand our solution so that the tool can be used for other types of activities in the future,such as running.

Will we soon see all the blind and partially sighted walkers with a bipedal belt?

“We don’t yet have a fixed cost estimate for our tools. We’ll probably work with the subscription first so users can test it out before they spend a lot of money on it. Hopefully it will eventually be reimbursed from health insurance just like other aids, but that still takes some Time. We hope that our product will become accessible to everyone. Only then can we achieve our goal; restoring (restoring) people their freedom of movement and independence.”

Read previous episodes of this series here.

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