Tech giant IBM, in partnership with four other companies, is developing a prototype suitcase that will use artificial intelligence to help guide visually challenged people. The company is working with Alps Alpine, Mitsubishi, Omron, and Shimizu on the smart suitacase. The prototype, which is a suitcase-shaped robot for now, was ideated by IBM fellow Chieko Asakawa, who herself has vision problems.

According to Japanese national newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, the AI suitcase will scan the user’s location and map data to identify the best route for them. It will also guide them through voice and haptic feedback, transmitting vibrations on the suitcase handle. The robot will also alert the users of approaching people and places nearby, like cafes, etc. though the audio system.

According to The Next Web, the suitcase will also analyse data from video cameras and distance sensors to identify obstacles on the path of the visually challenged person.

Asakawa came up with the idea while pushing her suitcase during a business trip. “It’s impossible for visually [challenged] individuals to walk around town alone freely and safely,” she was quoted by the Japanese newspaper as saying. “I want to make that possible.”

The AI for the suitcase will be developed by IBM, Alps Alpine will work on the haptic technology, Omron will provide the image recognition and sensors, Shimizu will work on the navigation system, while the responsibility of developing automotive technology lies with Mitsubishi. The consortium believes that the AI suitcase will help them move around independently.

The Next Web report, quoting a global health study, says that the number of visually challenged people will rise to 115 million by 2050.



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