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Glide to work with individuals with blindness to navigate the world, says Glidance CEO


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a blind woman crossing the street in a crosswalk, guided by Glidance Glide device

The mission for Glide is to supply independence and company to sight-impaired people. | Credit score: Glidance

Glidance Inc. has been growing Glide, a robotic strolling assist for individuals with imaginative and prescient impairments. The Seattle-based firm’s gadget has an ergonomic deal with, and its sensors are designed to assist customers keep away from obstacles, discover waypoints on maps, and cease at stairs and elevators.

In October 2023, Glidance, which is a resident member of MassRobotics, received the RoboBusiness Pitchfire startup competitors. The Shopper Know-how Affiliation (CTA) has additionally acknowledged the firm with an innovation award, and it plans to exhibit Glide at CES 2024 from Jan. 9 to 12 in Las Vegas.

The Robotic Report not too long ago spoke with Amos Miller, founder and CEO of Glidance, concerning the growth of Glide and plans for commercialization.

Inform us what you might be constructing.

Miller: At Glidance, our mission is to revolutionize impartial mobility for individuals with sight loss. And I don’t use the phrase “revolutionize” frivolously.

We’re doing that with a brand new self-guided mobility assist referred to as “Glide” that makes use of AI and sensors to information an individual, present them the way in which, assist them keep away from obstacles, make them conscious of what’s round them, and produce again their independence and their means to get round with confidence.

What was your inspiration for this product, and the way did you got here up with the idea of giving independence again to individuals with imaginative and prescient impairments?

Miller: I misplaced my sight in my 20s on account of a genetic situation referred to as retinitis pigmentosa. I misplaced my sight steadily whereas I used to be ending my pc science diploma and beginning my profession in excessive tech.

By the age of 30, I had misplaced all helpful sight. I’ve lived in Israel, the U.Okay., Singapore, and now within the U.S. I’ve lived my whole grownup life with sight loss. All over the place I’m going, I’ve to take care of impartial mobility each day of my life. 

I’m a guide-dog person and I also can use a cane, however I’m a horrible cane person. I’ve at all times appreciated the information canine as an assistant. However a canine doesn’t assist in case you don’t know the format of a prepare station, and it’s important to wait half-hour for any individual to come back meet you and information you to your prepare. These are the forms of challenges that I’ve at all times needed to take care of each day. 

Why weren’t you a superb cane person? What are a number of the issues that you simply had making an attempt to make use of a cane?

Miller: The cane is an incredible know-how. It has been round for hundreds of years. Right now, it’s by far essentially the most used assistive know-how, and folks should buy it for 25 bucks. 

To make use of a cane successfully, you “shoreline” to really feel an impediment and get round that impediment. Shoreline implies that as you’re strolling alongside a sidewalk, you faucet alongside the sting of the constructing or the sting of the street so that you could maintain a straight line. However you continue to must be extraordinarily well-oriented as to the place you might be inside a city or a constructing. 

You must take all of the alerts round you too, utilizing your entire senses, to know the place you might be alongside the road. Mentally, you feel for the following landmark — it could possibly be a tree, it could possibly be a bush, it could possibly be a lamppost. That requires loads of focus and loads of ability. This ability may be developed, but it surely takes time to develop.

I exploit a information canine, which is a really completely different guiding resolution, however I nonetheless want my orientation. With a information canine, the canine guides you thru the world. So it’s most likely nearer to what the Glide does.

I’d say that loads of blind individuals would take into account Glidance to be slightly bit like an digital information canine. From a behavioral perspective, it is similar in the way in which that it guides.

An actual information canine sees an impediment forward of time and takes you round it. And that’s precisely how Glidance works. Glide sees the impediment and takes you round. The result’s a a lot decrease cognitive load and lets you take heed to your e-mails or speak on the cellphone when you transfer with Glide.


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The evolution of Glide

How did Glide evolve from the preliminary idea, which pulled the person by the world, to the ultimate model?

Miller: Initially, we explored placing a motor on the wheels, as that was the pure place to start out. If you happen to work with a sighted one that’s guiding you, there are two methods of doing that.

One is that you simply contact their elbow or the opposite is the unwelcome approach, in that they seize your hand. In the event that they seize your hand, they’re now pulling you, and you are feeling a complete lack of company. You’re now only a trolley, alongside for the experience. 

The popular approach for sighted guiding is that I contact the elbow of the sighted particular person, and so they stroll. However I nonetheless decide pace, I decide the steps and the angles that I transfer my physique in. 

When you could have a robotic that pulls you round, you lose that company instantly. I’ve tried different robots, and when the robotic is totally autonomous and pulls you round, you lose all sense of company. It simply doesn’t really feel proper. 

By eradicating the motors from the wheels, the person merely nudges the gadget ahead; it’s very mild. The second they begin pushing it ahead, the wheels begin to servo and steer the way in which. However all of the company within the management remains to be with the person. They don’t have to maneuver knobs up and down to regulate the pace of the robotic, after they wish to cease, they cease.

From an expertise perspective, our customers love that. It additionally reduces the complexity of the system, reduces the burden of the unit, doesn’t require massive batteries, and lowers the general value.  

Can you are taking us by the obstacle-avoidance system? What are a number of the sensors that you simply’re utilizing? 

Miller: We’ve native and world planning onboard the system. We’ve quite a lot of sensors which can be on the cell unit stage and one other set on the backside of the unit simply above the wheels.

f there’s one thing in the way in which, the sensors will detect it, and the wheels will begin to steer you round it. The person is controlling the pace, and Glide is aware of how briskly you’re going. 

How are the haptics giving the person suggestions about pacing and different parts that it perceives?

Miller: The purpose is for the robotic to speak with the person in order that the person stops earlier than an impediment. As a result of the robotic is just not pulling the person alongside, it could actually point out to the person by haptics and audio on the deal with.

For instance, it double-taps on the deal with to point to the person to decelerate.

How does studying to make use of a information canine examine to the expertise studying to make use of Glide?

Miller: A information canine is superb, however you do must go to a residential program and prepare with a brand new canine. It takes weeks of coaching to belief the animal and study to work as a workforce. It takes loads of effort, plus it’s important to change your canine each 5 to 6 years, which is once more one other upheaval in your life. 

We all know that there are 7.3 million individuals with vital or whole sight loss within the U.S., however there are solely 10,000 new information canines out there in any given 12 months. I feel canines will proceed to be a part of the material of impartial mobility for years to come back.

On the identical time, 99.9% of blind individuals won’t ever take pleasure in a information canine. 

A brand new Glide person can study to make use of the answer in a few hours. For a person who loses their sight late in life, which is now an rising pattern, an answer like Glide stands out as the quickest and easiest methodology to return a way of independence to that particular person. That is the chance for Glide.

Glidance will get prepared for market

Will Glide combine its gadget with GPS, Google Maps, or Apple Maps to make use of navigation directions?

Miller: We may have mapping capabilities in Glide, however I don’t plan for Glide to be a navigation assist. I don’t wish to construct my very own navigation app.

However it is going to work with present navigation apps. So in case you set a vacation spot for a restaurant on Google, its strolling instructions are despatched to Glide to make use of as waypoints. Glide will do the native planning to these waypoints alongside the way in which and get you to that restaurant.

We additionally plan to combine apps just like the Goal app, the place you create your purchasing listing on the Goal app, and the Goal app tells you the place you might be within the retailer and the place the product is.

Glide has cameras and wheel odometry, and all the mandatory sensors to do SLAM [simultaneous localization and mapping] within the retailer. So Glide might pair up with a Goal app and aid you get to that shelf within the retailer. 

Are you able to share the worth level for the manufacturing resolution?

Miller: This resolution have to be reasonably priced. It’s not going to be $25 like a cane, however we’re aiming on the worth vary of a cellphone subscription.

You’ll begin with a fundamental subscription, relying on the extent of options that you really want. The essential options will match the wants of latest customers, and world vacationers can improve the product by turning on extra options to fulfill their wants.

We’re additionally working with the VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] and with insurance coverage corporations to make it possible for anybody can get the gadget. We anticipate to start out our beta program within the spring of 2024.

The place can of us discover you at CES 2024?

Miller: The CTA Basis gave us an award for a free sales space at Eureka Park.

Editor’s word: This interview was transcribed by https://otter.ai and edited for readability. You possibly can take heed to the total interview with Amos Miller on this episode of The Robotic Report Podcast:

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