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A six-legged guide robot for the blind has been developed by a Chinese university.

June 5, 2024
Technology & Research
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BEIJING, June 1 (Xinhua) — A research team from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University has developed a six-legged guide robot for visually impaired people that is expected to address the country’s shortage of real guide dogs.

“We believe our robot will function as a ‘pair of eyes’ for visually impaired people,” said Professor Gao Feng from the School of Mechanical Engineering in a press release on the university’s official website on Thursday.

According to the China Association of Persons with Visual Disabilities, there are about 17.31 million visually impaired people in China. However, due to high breeding costs and long training periods, there are reportedly only over 400 guide dogs in service nationwide, which means only one guide dog is available for every 40,000 visually impaired individuals in China.

As a strong backup for the real guide dogs, the guide robot can accurately recognize the speech of blind people and respond in less than one second, walking at a maximum speed of three meters per second while maintaining a stable walking state with little noise, according to the press release.

The robot has visual environmental perception capabilities, allowing it to autonomously navigate to its destination, dynamically avoid obstacles, and recognize traffic lights.

Moreover, with the support of the internet, it can also serve as a home companion and an emergency responder for blind people, it said.

“The primary task of our robot is to establish effective communication with blind individuals to enable the robot to understand the user’s intentions while maintaining coordinated movements,” said Gao.

To achieve these goals, the robot adopts a multisensory perception system of “seeing, hearing, asking and touching.” It combines natural language comprehension and speech recognition with force-feedback canes to enable the users to control the robot.

This robot also uses advanced machine learning algorithms, enabling it to automatically avoid static and dynamic obstacles with a high degree of stability and safety.

In addition, it is equipped with multiple sensors such as laser radar to improve the accuracy of perception in complex environments. This means it can walk smoothly on different types of terrain and guide the blind both indoors and outdoors with no need of internet, making it easier to use, more stable, and more reliable for blind individuals.

The guide robot is currently undergoing field testing. Throughout the research and development process, visually impaired individuals have been involved in offline demonstrations and tests, according to Gao.

“We have already received orders for 20 units and believe that it will soon be ready for the market,” he said.

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