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Omron developing robotic suitcase with AI to assist visually impaired people

Omron has joined a consortium which is developing a robotic suitcase with artificial intelligence to assist visually impaired people.

As well as Omron, the consortium includes companies such as IBM Japan, Mitsubishi Motors, and Shimizu Corporation.

The AI suitcase is described as an integrated solution that will help the visually impaired to get around town independently, by supplementing visual information by combining the latest AI with robotics.

Cassed as a “wearable device”, the suitcase-shaped navigation robot will be designed to be carried around easily “without stress in one’s daily life”.

Some of the features of the planned AI suitcase include:

  • robotics;
  • haptic interface;
  • facial recognition;
  • localization and navigation;
  • assistive technology;
  • cloud computing;
  • conversational AI;
  • behavior and environment recognition; and
  • mobility service integration.

Within the consortium, multiple companies in various fields of business will bring together their technologies and expertise to develop such an AI suitcase.

Through pilot experiments, the consortium will identify the requirements for social implementation and aim to achieve a solution that resolves transport and communication issues for the visually impaired.

The consortium was inspired by the research that IBM fellow Chieko Asakawa conducted at Carnegie Mellon University on navigation for the visually impaired.

The consortium will join hands with universities including Carnegie Mellon as well as relevant organizations that support the visually impaired in order to develop new accessibility technologies.

Because of the growing elderly population in Japan, the number of people with visual impairments is on the rise due to age-related declining vision and the onset of eye diseases such as glaucoma.

A survey by the Japanese Ophthalmological Society estimated that there are 1.64 million people in Japan with visual impairments, of whom 188,000 are completely blind.

Some research results suggest that across the globe, the number of visually impaired people will triple by 2050, leading to increasing concern about this exponential increase in number.

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