Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bloomberg TV News reports on Blind Driver Challenge

Bloomberg TV's Sheila Dharmarajan reports on the Blind Driver Challenge, a vehicle prototype that allows blind people to drive. The automobile's robotics technology, created by Dennis Hong, a professor at Virginia Tech, is designed with various sensors that signal the visually impaired to command the vehicle. Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind, also talks about the importance of equality and "taking control of the car if I need to." Video courtesy of Bloomberg News.

Also check out Bloomberg's video report on Dennis Hong's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory.

Photo of Mark Riccobono and Dennis Hong by Steven Mackay.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

7 Tech Breakthroughs That Empower People With Disabilities

The Blind Driver Challenge makes No. 3 on this list of new tech made to help those with disabilities. Writer Kelly Shaver focuses on Virginia Tech Associate Professor Dennis Hong and the future spin-off technologies of the BDC...

Text by Kelly Shaver

Adaptive technology is a fairly new term, but the basic idea is not. Some adaptive devices are simple, like the cane, which has a history as old as mankind itself. Others seem to come more from the realm of science fiction.

However mundane or complicated, all are a testament to human determination, creativity and ambition. Here, we look at seven high-tech assistive devices and how they’re helping those with disabilities lead full and fulfilling lives.


Image above courtesy TED2011.

Take the Blind Driver Challenge at festival, by 'Daily Times'

KIPTOPEKE -- Visitors to the 2011 Harvest Festival are invited to take the Blind Driver Challenge at the Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living tent.

Software developed at Virginia Tech to enable blind people to drive will be on display in a simulated driving module.

The Blind Driver Challenge evolved as a result of blind people who felt they had established independence in various arenas of their lives but did not have the luxury nor the privilege to drive, especially after having conquered so many obstacles that were deemed impossible for the blind.

The National Federation of the Blind, which seeks to improve the lives of blind people by advocacy and the pursuit of advancing technology, partnered with Virginia Tech to develop software and interfacing that would enable a blind person to operate a motor vehicle.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Busy September for Blind Drive Challenge vehicles...

September has been a busy month for the Blind Challenge project with – as of this posting – a story just aired on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” and other stories planned from “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer,” ESPN for the halftime spot on 1 October, 2011, and a story by Bloomberg News TV. Below are links to stories by “The (Pittsburgh) Tribune” and from “Anderson Cooper 360.”

The attention, some nine months after the newest debut of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle at the Daytona International Speedway track, shows the impact that the National Federation of the Blind’s initiative started. As the NFB stated at the launch of the project, “The ‘Challenge’ is not the development of an autonomous car that drives a blind person around, but to develop a non-visual interface for a car that can convey real-time information about driving conditions to the blind so that we can use our own capacity to think and react to interpret these data and maneuver a car safely.”

Here's the "Anderson Cooper 360" clip featuring CNN correspondent Tom Foreman behind the wheel of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle and talking to RoMeLa Director Dennis Hong. (In the image above, Foreman is wearing the blindfold, facing camera.)

Video: The Connection: Blind Drivers

From “The (Pittsburgh) Tribune-Review”

Franklin Regional junior in 5-day science program for visually impaired youth
By Paul Paterra

Tommy Brown has been fascinated by cars and how they work since he was a toddler.
"When I was young, I loved to play with cars," said Brown, 16, of Murrysville. "For a while, I've been interested in the building aspect."

With that in mind, the visually impaired teenager is working toward his dream of becoming an engineer, taking another step when he enrolled in Youth Slam in the summer.

"Mentors for (Youth Slam) are blind, visually impaired," Brown said. "I talked to them to see what they do, how they do it and what equipment they use ... to help me do a similar job."

Youth Slam is a five-day STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — academy held every two years for 150 visually impaired teens from across the country with "successfully blind" adults serving as mentors. The program, held at Towson University in Maryland, is sponsored by the nonprofit National Federation of the Blind…

Read more…

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle.

Monday, August 22, 2011

RoboNexus reports, "TORC, VA Tech, U.S. Military Creating Cutting-Edge Technologies by Partnering"

From a report by RoboNexus, Ellen Cotton writes, "TORC's modified Ford Escape is packed with non-visual interface devices technologies designed by VA Tech Engineering students to allow blind drivers to operate the vehicle, which it did on Jan. 29, 2011, at Daytona International Speedway as part of the ongoing Blind Driver Challenge. Technologies in the vehicle include the ByWire XGV mentioned above. It also includes gloves called DriveGrips and a seat cushion called SpeedStrip, which vibrate to give the driver certain cues that indicate directions to accelerate or halt, turn right or left. The vehicles can “see” obstacles and the road ahead through strategically placed laser range finders and cameras."

Read more

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ABC News visits Youth Slam camp, takes BDC vehicles for a demo drive

The National Federation of the Blind hosted its STEM-inspired Youth Slam camp last week in Baltimore. The camp's mission, according to a NFB website: "Engage and inspire the next generation of blind youth to consider careers falsely believed to be impossible for the blind and bring a unified voice to the next generation of blind professionals."

ABC News stopped by the morning of July 22 for a demo of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicles. Later, students at the camp had the chance to ride in the cars, driven by the NFB's Mark Riccobono and Anil Lewis.

In the image above, Virginia Tech Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) Director Dennis Hong and ABC News' Juju Chang wave their hellos from one of the BDC vehicles. Chang, wearing sleeper shades, took the wheel of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle as part of a show focusing on Hong's work that will air in September.

For more photos, visit our Facebook page:

All photos by Steven D. A. Mackay.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wired's Autopia Blog: 'Ford Proves That Blind Drivers Can Learn A Stick Shift'

Administrator's Note: This report by "Wired" magazine talks about a separate project to help the blind drive, but mentions in detail the Blind Driver Challenge...

Ford of Europe let 30 blind and visually impaired drivers get behind the wheel at their test track in Cologne, Germany in an attempt to give blind people a better understanding of automobiles and examine how they interact with cars.

Last week’s test drives put drivers in control of all vehicle inputs, responding to the directions of a sighted driving instructor. The fastest driver got their Fiesta up to 74 mph, and Ford reported that all drivers quickly mastered the fine art of a stick shift through feel and sound.

“Driving it was not a big problem for me,” said driver Katrin Berus of Kleve, Germany. “Operating clutch and gearshift was easier than I expected.”