European Consortium To Create Wearable Technology For The Blind

Partners Combine Cutting-Edge Technology with End User Design Requirements

A consortium of European companies, comprised of research institutions and technology companies, today announced it will work together to create a standalone, wearable assistive device for the visually impaired. The consortium, including Dräger & Lienert and TU Dresden out of Germany, Elitac and TNO in the Netherlands and Ghent University and SoftKinetic® in Belgium, have labeled the FP7 project Range-IT. The goal of the Range-IT system is to create a wearable device that will extend mobility and improve employment opportunities and daily interactions for blind persons.

The new device will allow users to better navigate inside buildings that are unfamiliar, such as train stations. Additionally, it will also increase the range of obstacle detection from 1.5 meters (that of a traditional cane) to 7-8 meters. Range-IT users will be able to carry or wear the system wherever they go, and at a much lower cost than a guide dog.

“We are honored to be a part of such a distinguished group of forward-thinking organizations, dedicated to providing valuable and worthwhile technologies for the disabled,” said Marc Grootjen, project leader of RANGE-IT. “Our combined efforts to create a wearable device for the visually-impaired will ensure greater mobility and independence, and will have the power to transform their environment and daily tasks.”

The partnership brings together a wide variety of industry knowledge and cutting-edge technology capabilities. SoftKinetic and TU Dresden combine efforts to provide the newest 3D imaging techniques for real time analysis of the environment, based on a Time-of-Flight (ToF) DepthSense® camera. TNO and Elitac will build a tactile display to guide and alarm the wearer using small vibrating motors positioned around the body. UGent takes the lead in the design process, centered around the human end user. Dräger & Lienert, a company selling custom assistive solutions to blind people, provides the much needed voice of the end user.

Range-IT is slated to be developed over a two-year period, beginning in November 2013. More information can be found at

About Range-IT Partners

TU Dresden (TUD) is one of eleven German universities that were identified as an “excellence university”. TUD has about 37.000 students, 4.400 publicly funded staff members – among them over 500 professors – and approximately 3.500 externally funded staff members, and, thus, is the largest university in Saxony, today. From the TUD there are two research groups participating. The Chair of Human-Computer Interaction will develop the main 3D point cloud algorithms and multimodal user interface. The Vodafone Chair of Mobile Communications System will be in charge of the integration work of the wearable system.

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) is a non-profit research organisation established by law in 1932. TNO is fully independent; it is neither a governmental body nor is it related to any specific interest group. In the system of innovation, TNO acts as an interface between science and the market. Being both embedded in the world of fundamental research and having strong links with the world of users, TNO is perfectly paced to fulfil this role in which contract research and strategic collaboration are keys to the transfer of knowledge.

University of Ghent is involved with 2 research groups in this consortium form the department of Industrial System & Product Design. The Industrial Design Center (IDC) is an open knowledge and communication platform between the industry, education, research and development programs of UGent and Howest in Kortrijk. Relevant expertise for this project is IDC’s methodology in User Experience Design combined with the expertise in inclusive design and iterative prototyping.

SoftKinetic is the leading provider of end-to-end, 3D vision for PCs, portable electronics and machines. 3D vision is used in everything from gesture-control to context awareness. Personal devices can be given the ability to understand ever more about the user, their surroundings and their environment. More than ten years of R&D has gone into developing this unique blend of 3D vision, gesture recognition, and context awareness technology.

Dräger & Lienert (D&L) is an engineering company that exists since 1989. D&L works in the field of assistive technology and focuses on vocational applications for blind people. The main goal is to compensate the lag of functions caused by blindness by innovative technology and enable blind people to work on a competitive level. D&L employs 10 persons regularly and 8 persons on a freelance basis.

Elitac BV, located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, focuses on market applications of innovative tactile displays. Elitac works at the border of knowledge development and application and the recent spinoff maximizes their efforts to bring tactile products to the market. Elitac will also be coordinating the project.

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Natalee Gibson
Incendio International
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