For decades, seeing eye dogs have been used by visually impaired or blind individuals. These highly trained dogs specialize in keeping the user safe from obstacles and hazards during their daily lives when they travel. While these exceptional animals are a valuable companion to the user, they cannot assist in directing the user during these activities. The user still requires, throughout their travels, the assistance of some other means or individuals to help them safely reach the destinations to which they wish to go. It is also common for users to count steps to those locations that they frequent often. The intent of guide dogs is to give individuals a more independent life without feeling the mental and emotional perception of themselves that they are helpless by safely maneuvering obstacles and other people while walking.
The system proposed by this project is meant to further empower the visually impaired and blind by giving them an even greater feeling of independence. That will be by developing a new system intent on enhancing the everyday use of a guide dog for the visually impaired and blind individuals. The scope of the project is to design and develop an interactive GPS system that would be incorporated into the guide dog harness. This system would have tactile feedback capability for the user while working this the guide dog. Once the user adds the desired address into the GPS via their phone or other device, the system would be able to inform the user, through tactile feedback in the handle ( by slightly twisting left or right or vibration on the left or right side), of the turns along the route to be taken to their destination. By using tactile feedback, the user does not impair their hearing for any possible danger while walking.The user then would direct the guide dog vocally at that moment to turn and continue along the route. The long-term goal of this new system is to bring this well-established program of the seeing eye companion working with a visually impaired person to the next level with the incorporation of the latest in GPS and electronic technology.
In developing a more enhanced and functional capacity to the guide dog companion and user partnership, it will make this type of program to gain more independence on a daily level more widespread among the visually impaired and blind. Among the milestones in this project, the system will be user-friendly, rugged, waterproof, lightweight and cost effective to make it more available to as many users as possible.