A project at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock that could help millions of visually impaired people will move forward thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The three-year $820,263 grant will enable Dr. Cang Ye, a UALR professor in the Department of Systems Engineering, to develop a Wearable Robotic Object Manipulation Aid (W-ROMA). He will conduct the work with his research collaborator, Dr. Yantao Shen of the University of Nevada, Reno, and a team of postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students.
Equipped with a camera, the device will detect objects wearers need to move or use and then guide them to take hold of the items.
The planned device, which would be worn on the user's hand, is intended to make it easier for visually impaired people to remove obstacles, such as a chair in their path, and perform essential tasks, such as finding a door handle.
Because the device would communicate with its wearer about the location, shape, and size of objects in a meaningful, yet unobtrusive way, it could provide more independence and improved safety, Ye said.
Ye and his team plan to develop the technology, design the device, and test its usability.
An expert in computer vision and robot navigation, Ye has experience developing robotic technology and creating assistive devices for the visually impaired.
Not only will the new device potentially improve the lives of visually impaired individuals, but the project also will give UALR undergraduate and graduate students working on it the opportunity to receive rigorous scientific training in robotics and biomedical engineering, Ye said.
Additionally, by collaborating with UALR's summer research programs, Ye and his team will use their ongoing research as a recruitment tool for high school students.
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