The company behind products for visually impaired people, WeWALK, has secured funding through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for a one million and seven hundred thousand pounds Designed for Aging project.
Partnering with the Royal National Institute of Blind People and Imperial College London, the project aims to help people facing mobility challenges from navigating the busiest streets to catching the right bus, by aiming to deliver a new computer vision-aided solution.
“WeWALK has secured funding through UK Research and Innovation.”
WeWALK has already transformed mobility for people with visual impairments through its software-enabled products. Using a front-mounted ultrasonic sensor, the company’s Smart Cane detects obstacles and warns users with vibration feedback. In addition, to provide users with accessible voice-guided navigation, the Smart Cane can be paired with WeWALK’s smartphone app.
The Healthy Aging Challenge includes the delivery of the Designed for Aging funds on behalf of UKRI. The WeWALK team joins forces with Imperial College London and the RNIB under the direction of Jean-Marc Feghali, head of R&D, and will use the money to promote the widespread use of computer vision-aided navigation, including environmental mapping and situation awareness. The project team seeks to enhance the WeWALK architecture while also creating new, more approachable, and user-friendly technology for important target audiences. By facilitating access to the places where we live, work, and play, the project has the potential to improve the lives of up to 253 million visually impaired people and 700 million older people globally.
Kürşat Ceylan, WeWALK co-founder, stated: “We are delighted and excited to be embarking on this new project with our partners, thanks to the support of UKRI. Computer vision has limitless potential in solving mobility problems experienced by visually impaired and older people , from identifying landmarks to navigating complex spaces. Our specialist knowledge and that of our partners, which have an in-depth understanding of overcoming the barriers to using mobility technology, provide an ideal platform in developing new and effective solutions.”
Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, Professor Washington Ochieng, stated: “The Design for Aging Project will enable us to turn the dream of a seamless fully automated navigation system into a reality and transform the quality of life for visually impaired and elderly people. Throughout this ground-breaking project, we will be using some of the most sophisticated sensing and analytics technology including AI and machine learning to deliver on our ambitions.”
Principal manager of digital accessibility at RNIB, Robin Spinks, stated: “We’re delighted to be working with WeWALK and Imperial College London on this exciting project which gives us an immense opportunity to enhance navigation for people with sight loss. We will be heavily involved in user testing working with a large group of blind and partially sighted people to harness their day-to-day lived experience. We will also be working with our user experience team to develop a game-changing product that will improve the lives of visually impaired individuals worldwide.”
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