Skip to main content

Professor, Students Create Smart Vest to Help Persons with Visual Impairment Navigate Better

December 01, 2019

A Western Michigan University (WMU) professor and her students worked on a research project to help those who are visually impaired.

WMU Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dr. Pnina Ari-Gur created an alternative to the "white cane" for the visually impaired.

She said the idea was inspired by a close friend.

"I have a friend who is legally blind and he is using a cane," Ari-Gur said. "I noticed he has difficulties, folding the cane and navigating with the cane."

She secured funding for the research project through WMU's Faculty Research and Creative Activities Award and donations from alumni.

Ari-Gur said she teamed up with her former student Justin Rittenhouse to create something easy and lightweight that someone can wear: a vest.

Rittenhouse said the technology is designed to keep the visually impaired safer by detecting what's around them. It works by sending a signal right to their phone.

"You can have your phone vibrate or talk to you and basically it will tell you how far away an object is, and if its above you, in front of you or below you," he said.

Ari-Gur said she brought in high school and undergrad students to help with the research.

WMU engineering student Isabel Campbell said this is a rare opportunity,

"It's really cool to be a part of this because I'm not sure if I'll be able to do research like this in a school setting ever again, said Campbell.

Not only are students getting research experience but they said they are creating something that could change someone's everyday life.

"I feel like its very impactful," said WMU engineering student Yomi Nathan. "This is basically like an eye for the people who are visually impaired."

Ari-Gur said the team is now seeking feedback from the blind and physical therapy specialists.

She said they are continuing to work on the vest and make improvements

Her hope is the vest will be affordable and someday help people who are visually impaired across the globe.

Source: WWMT