Article from The Economist – White Cane 2.0

Interesting article from The Economist regarding White Cane alternative.

This article appeared in the Science and technology section of the print edition under the headline “White cane 2.0”

Helping blind people navigate

White cane 2.0

A new way to assist those with poor eyesight

Dr Rus’s device, of which she demonstrated a prototype on June 1st at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore, consists of a camera worn on a lanyard around the neck, and a belt. A computer inside the camera creates a three-dimensional image of the area ahead of the wearer, processes it to extract relevant information, and uses the results to pass on appropriate signals via the belt.

Dr Rus knew from previous attempts to build devices of this sort that what might seem the obvious way of manifesting those signals, namely as sounds with specific meanings, was not, in fact, a good approach. Blind people depend a lot on their hearing and do not like it when newfangled devices hamper this sense with beeps and clicks. Hence the belt, which has five vibrating motors installed in it. One sits over the centre of the wearer’s abdomen. The others flank this central motor, with two spaced out on either side of it.

That configuration permits the computer to warn a wearer when he is on a collision course with an obstacle. It does so by telling the motor pointing most closely in the direction of the obstacle to vibrate. If the wearer is walking towards a wall, for example, the central motor vibrates softly when he comes within a couple of metres of it. If he ignores this, perhaps because he actually wants to reach the wall, the computer increases the amplitude as he closes in, giving him a good idea of exactly how far away he is. Similarly, if he is in danger of bumping, say, his right shoulder on a door frame while walking from one room to another, the right-most motor on the belt will warn him of the impending collision. And it works. When compared with navigation by white cane in one of MIT’s famously crowded hallways, it reduced blind students’ collisions with others by 86%.

The new system can, however, do more than just help someone walk around without collisions, for the belt incorporates a touchpad that is inscribed with instructions in Braille. This permits the user to program it to perform specific tasks.

For example, Dr Rus knew that blind students often struggle to find an empty seat in a crowded lecture theatre. Adding an appropriate algorithm to the computer’s software helps get around this by enabling it to recognise chairs, and also whether or not a chair is occupied. In this case, the motors are used to indicate a direction to be travelled in, rather than one to be avoided. Activating the algorithm using the touchpad causes the motor pointing most closely towards an empty chair to vibrate when the system spots one.

Good vibrations

In trials involving a room that contained an empty chair, an occupied chair and also a recycling bin, the algorithm directed the belt-wearer straight to the empty chair 80% of the time. Cane users presented with the same arrangement always found the empty chair eventually, but in doing so came into contact with objects other than their target more than five times as often as those using the camera and belt.

Whether a camera (ideally, smaller than the one in the prototype) and a belt could replace a cane completely remains to be seen. In particular, Dr Rus’s system does lack one important feature of Biggs’s innovation. A white cane not only helps a blind person to navigate, it also signals his condition to the rest of the world, allowing others to adjust their behaviour accordingly. As a supplementary aid, however, her approach seems most promising.

VRS Diabetes Support Group Put the Pedal to Metal at Cycle Élan

Cycle Élan gave VRS Diabetes Support Group and staff a warm welcome during their beginner’s cycling class June 22, 2017. VRS enjoyed a private 30-minute high-energy cycling class complete with great music and lots of motivation from the instructor, April. Each client was provided a cycle that tracked their progress, displayed their speed, distance traveled and more.  April encouraged everyone to work at their own pace but not be afraid to push themselves. Everyone seemed to push themselves not only to complete the 30 minutes but to increase their tension levels and speeds.  Assan, another Cycle Élan instructor, cruised the studio to ask each client how they were doing and to encourage them to do what felt comfortable.  VRS client, Derrick Whitaker, felt comfortable cycling at high speed and high tension. He breezed through the cycling class with ease, earning the longest distance of all the cyclists. Admittedly, Derrick spends a lot of time at the gym and had a clear advantage over those who were not as experienced.  He was an inspiration to all to really put the petal to the metal.

VRS Diabetes Support Group Puts the Pedal to the MetalWay to go Derrick !

After 30 minutes, the Diabetes Support Group accumulated several miles of distance and burned a major amount of calories. After class, Cycle Élan provided cold eucalyptus-scented towels to help cool body temperatures. After blood sugar levels were checked, the class enjoyed some snacks and conversation about how much fun the class was.  Everyone seemed pleased with their progress and encouraged to engage in a fitness routine.

VRs Diabetes Support Group Puts the Pedal to the Metal

VRS Diabetes Class Puts the Pedal to the Metal

Some even said they would return to Cycle Élan for more classes.  Why not? The facilities, instructors, classes and hospitality were great!  VRS would like to extend a big thank you to Cycle Élan for welcoming the VRS Diabetes Support Group and helping to inspire to get the wheels moving toward fitness.

 

Group picture in Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio lobby

Transition Academy Learns About Branding At Alpine Sign & Graphics Studio

On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, the Transition Academy took a field trip to Steve Gardner’s Alpine Sign and Graphics Studio to learn about branding and logo creation.  Before we left, Nancy we began class with our usual introductions.  During that time, the class was introduced to Shelby- a visiting teacher from the Macon School for the Blind- who is interning with VRS as part of her O&M certification program.  Afterwards, we excitedly headed out on our adventure.

When we arrived, Steve Gardner met us in the lobby and explained several aspects of his business to us.  He shared how his business is an important part of a company’s branding strategy.  Mr. Gardner specializes in making vivid signs, banners, vehicle wraps, and interior graphics according to his customer’s unique specifications.  As a sample, Mr. Gardner showed us a Van Goh painting flawlessly reproduced on a miniature canvas frame, as well as a large wall graphic of the outdoors so realistic that several people nearly walked right into it.

Group listening to Steve Gardner explain printing

Inside his workshop, Mr. Gardner walked us through the process of creating a graphic, by pulling up the Transition Academy logo on his computer and printing it repeatedly on a large vinyl sheet.  Next, he ran the sheet through a slicing machine so that each adhesive logo sticker could be peeled off individually.Alsu_Chayla_Maggie_Xavier_reviewing_logo  Afterwards, Mr. Gardner used a pen knife to “weed” the excess white material on each logo, so that the stickers would look much neater when we used them later that day.

William YanceyUpon returning to VRS, Heidi and I chose to interview William Yancey, a recent graduate of Sprayberry High School, who came to the Transition Academy partly to get a free T-shirt.  In the fall, William plans to attend Chattahoochee Technical College.  After college, William would like a job where he could work with his hands and repair machines; fixing computers at Best Buy is just one of the many options available to him.  For the last major activity of the day, Nancy had the TA participants form an assembly line to create multisensory thank you cards for each of our special guests and visitors from the past few weeks.  Once those were finished, Julie, VRS’ Technology Instructor, introduced them to OrCam, a smart camera designed to help visually impaired read by using a special software that turns photos of written words into sounds that can be read back to the user.  Then at 3:30 PM, the class was finished for the day.

Ultra-Important Facts On Ultraviolet Rays

Sunglasses

Ultra-violet (UV) rays can damage your eyes and increase your risk of cataracts and cancers of the eye. Because UV rays can be permanently harmful, sunglasses with UV protection are recommended for everyone, but especially for those that work outside or already have existing eye problems.

While many have heard of the dangers of skin cancer, few people know that various skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas) can occur on the eyelids, on the surface of the eye and even inside of the eye. In fact, 5-10% of skin cancer affects the eyelids.  Our eyes are the only internal tissue of our body that are exposed to sunlight. Without proper sunglasses, nearly 40% of the rays get into our eyes even when we’re not directly exposed. Ocular melanoma cancer is the most common type of eye cancer in adults and can cause permanent vision loss. Around 94% of people are affected with premature aging signs near the eye regions. This is also caused by exposure to intense sun rays that make your skin dry. This affects the skin texture and makes it more prone to get wrinkles and fine lines.

For these reasons, it is essential to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by regularly wearing protective sunglasses. Sunglasses should be 100% UV-absorbent for UVA and UVB or be labeled UV400. To provide additional UV protection, also wear a wide-brimmed hat, especially when during the mid-day sun or if you will be outdoors for a prolonged period of time.

Remember, prolonged UV exposure can occur outside, but also in tanning beds. People who are fair-skinned, Caucasians, have light-colored eyes, smoke, or have had a family history of skin cancer are particularly at risk and sensitive to UV rays.

Parents should also be extra cautious with their children’s activities such as swimming or skiing because the sun is reflected off the water, snow, or ice and heavy UV exposure can occur without even realizing it.

Regular dilated eye exams, especially in high risk patients, can provide early warnings, diagnosis, and treatment of the aforementioned eye diseases and prevent or treat these eye diseases related to UV exposure.

For more information check out: Think About Your Eyes

Join our Book Club!

VRS is exciting to announce we are starting a New Monthly Book Club!

Book Club

Do you ever find it hard to get motivated to read, or maybe you love to read but would like to interact with your friends, well here is your opportunity! VRS is starting a book club. The idea to start a book club came from one of our clients, but is open to all clients and friends of the agency. Plus we will have audio books available as well for the visually impaired or blind readers. The first monthly book club will take place on April 3 from 2-3 p. m. We will have coffee too for our coffee drinkers in the club. If you are interested please RSVP to wayneheidi288@gmail.com or (770) 906-6797. Also if you have a favorite author or type of book include that in your email. We will see you in April! Happy Reading!

Resolutions for Health and Wellness

The New Year is a great time to recommit yourself to controlling your diabetes. With the modern conveniences of scheduling and glucose monitoring apps, there’s no excuse to not stay on top of your diabetes. Go ahead and pull out your calendar and set reminders to do the following in 2017:

  1.  Schedule appointments to see your doctor at least twice a year. Make sure you schedule the next appointment while you’re in the office after the first one. Remember, you should have regular visits even if you feel well.
  2. Schedule an appointment to see a foot specialist at least once in 2017.
  3. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you’re taking in addition to your diabetes medication, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies.
  4. Review the instructions for every medication you are taking. Set up automatic refills with your pharmacy to ensure you don’t forget to get them filled in a timely manner.
  5. Follow your schedule for checking your blood sugar. Put alarms on your phone to remind yourself when to check your sugar. Use an app to record your readings.
  6. Know the numbers that define your health: A1C, cholesterol, triglycerides, microalbumin, and blood pressure.
  7. Keep moving. Regular, moderate exercise can turn your body into a sugar burning machine. Start slowly — even a leisurely walk around the block is a step in the right direction.
  8. Take a look at your diet. Are you getting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains? Are you going easy on fat? See a dietitian if you have any doubts about your meals.
  9. Have a yearly Dilated Retinal Eye (DRE) exam. Make sure the eye specialist sends the results to your primary doctor.
  10. Schedule a dental exam twice a year.
  11. Get a flu shot in the fall.
  12. Get a renal function test and microalbumin test once during the year.
  13. Be prepared. Review the warning signs of low blood sugar and other complications. Keep necessary items such as glucose tablets on you at all times.
  14. Finally, Plan time for Fun. Doing the things you enjoy and trying something new is beneficial to your emotional health and well-being and can help build meaningful community connections that we sometimes lose when we are working hard to manage a chronic condition such as Diabetes.

For more information on trying new things – tune into our Blog in January 2017

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