Worldwide there are over 160 million people with severe visual impairment, as defined by visual acuity poorer than 20/200.1 A prominent concern for visually impaired individuals is their limited navigational abilities due to insufficient sensory information about their surrounding environment which results in difficulty with navigating new or complex environments. In these situations, they often have to rely on the assistance of others to help them reach their destination. Furthermore, even when the visually impaired individuals are familiar with the area, they are not always aware of non-stationary obstacles, such as cars or people. Two commonly used solutions currently available to help visually impaired individuals navigate their surroundings are the white cane and guide dogs. The white cane is useful for alerting its users to obstacles closer than 1.5 m, but it does not provide any information about the environment beyond that scope. Guide dogs are in unfortunately limited supply and can cost upwards of $42,000 to train.2 To address this challenge, multiple groups have examined more technologically advanced solutions to help visually impaired individuals. However, these devices have some major limitations, such as complicated display modalities and non-intuitive sensory representation of environmental information. The major goal of this proposal is to develop a new electronic travel aid (ETA) that will help visually impaired individuals navigate their environment more easily by using a novel method of directly displaying the location of obstacles up to 4 m away on the user’s torso with a grid of small vibrational devices called tactors. This device is intended to be used with a traditional white cane that can detect objects very close to the user and terrain changes, such as a step in a stairwell.

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