Anthony Camu, a final year Industrial Design and Technology student at Loughborough University is making headlines with his latest creation of a handheld robotic guide dog. This will be a great help to those people with visual impairment who might find it difficult to accommodate an actual guide dog in their homes.
The robot is named after the Titan goddess of light, ‘Theia’ and is shaped like a virtual gaming controller, which enthused Anthony to create this masterpiece in the first place. Theia listens to the user’s voice to lead them to their desired locations.
If the user has to go to some address (for eg. House number 4, 56th Street, Greenville Residency), they have to say ‘Hey Theia take me to House number 4, 56th Street, Greenville Residency*’. It will then process the actual data available online, like traffic density, and program the most secure route for the user to follow, quite similar to how GPS or satellite navigation works in our cars.
All the information is then communicated to the user via a machine built inside it, called a control moment gyroscope which uses the mechanism of ‘forced feedback’. These are used in spacecraft and their main function is to help in orientation purposes of the spacecraft, or in controlling the ‘spacecraft attitude’ using electric power.
This tiny built-in gyroscope physically moves the user’s hand in the direction they are supposed to go, thus giving them a feeling of being led by an actual guide dog. “The main intention was never to replace guide dogs, but instead to provide an alternative means of giving enhanced mobility options to visually impaired people” says Anthony Camu.
According to Mr. Camu, Theia will also be helpful in confronting challenging interactions like elevators or shops. While crossing a busy street, it will tend to ‘push back’ the users, cautioning them to be more sentient about their current surroundings. Moreover, Theia is quite pocket-friendly, costing about one-tenth the price of a real guide dog.
This tool will also contribute in imparting a sense of belonging and reduce the constant mental hassle and anxiety faced by the visually impaired population of the world. Since they are unable to assess their surroundings, it limits their outdoor movement. This will help them move in the outdoors more often and reduce stress while navigating the traffic on the road.
Anthony has created and experimented with many prototypes of Theia and some work is still needed to correct a few issues before the final launch his product in the market
However, he concluded that Theia has a promising future and it requires just a little more testing and research.“I know this is a grand vision, but I hope people can see the positive effects Theia could have on the blind community” he states.
*This address is fictional. Any similarity is purely coincidental.