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Eyewear to help you cross roads

The "electronic eye" could replace a cane or guide dog for blind people.
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Technology (general)

(CNN) -- Crossing the road may soon be as straightforward -- and safe -- for blind and visually impaired people as it is for someone with good eyesight, thanks to a new device that acts as an "electronic eye."

Two Japanese scientists have developed the navigation system, which is attached to a pair of spectacles.

Using a camera, the device detects when the wearer is approaching a "zebra" pedestrian crossing by identifying the crossing's white stripes, how far the other side of the road is and what color traffic light is showing.

It then sends the information to a tiny computer, relaying the necessary information via a voice speech system and speaker, situated near the wearer's ear.

The system provides the wearer with all the data they need to cross the road safely, say its creators, Tadayoshi Shioyama and Mohammad Uddin, of the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

Their research appears in the Measurement Science and Technology journal, published by Britain's Institute of Physics.

The scientists say the electronic eye could eventually remove the need for blind people to use a cane or guide dog.

"It's almost real-time. The response time is three or four seconds," Uddin said.

He said the device could also alert the user to passing or stationary cars.

Using a handheld digital video camera, he filmed 196 traffic intersections in Japan.

Back in the lab, a computer program examined the footage using a 3D matrix, and correctly detected the pedestrian crossings in all but two instances, when it signaled the presence of intersections that weren't there.

Katherine Phipps, of Britain's Royal National Institute of the Blind, said any technological developments that may be able to aid blind and partially sighted people become more independent were welcome.

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