Ford's 'Feel The View' prototype aims to help visually impaired people 'see' outside cars

By Souvik Das | Published on 02 May 2018
HIGHLIGHTS

The Ford 'Feel The View' is an incredibly novel prototype, and uses an exterior-facing camera and in-glass vibrations to offer a Braille-like transcription of what's outside a car, aided by AI-powered audio descriptions.

Ford's 'Feel The View' prototype aims to help visually impaired people 'see' outside cars

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Often, car makers around the world come up with concepts and prototypes that are not centered around making cars drive themselves, or improving engine efficiency and battery proficiencies. Sometimes, the innovation is about giving a way for many to evade handicaps and make all-new experiences. Ford's latest prototype technology, termed 'Feel The View', is exactly that.

Developed in collaboration with visual impairment specialist Aedo and GTB Roma in Italy, Feel The View is a unique device that uses a range of hardware to relay vibrations on a car's windows. These vibrations effectively relay Braille-like feedback of the scenery outside the car, hence enabling the visually challenged individuals to 'see'. This pear-shaped device has an integrated camera facing outward, and when tapped, takes a snap of the scenery outside and simultaneously converts the image into grayscale. The numerous shades of gray are then translated into vibrations, and relayed to the passengers via the windows. Furthermore, Feel The View also includes a voice assistant that uses a connected AI unit and the car's native audio system to give an auditory experience of the topography outside.

At present, the system can relay up to 255 different types of vibrations to help individuals identify various scenes outside. The entire setup is truly novel, and brings a new dimension to travel experiences of the visually impaired. These technologies will be crucial going forward, as the entire automotive industry inches towards achieving autonomous driving. With technologies like augmented reality displays on windows, Feel The View's haptic vibration-based feedback mechanism can have further implications like relaying information like emails and messages, navigation routes and even entertainment content, thereby holding the potential to be a great productivity tool for the blind.

The technology is still in prototype stages, but we do expect to see it in production form, possibly as an optional accessory in all of Ford's major markets. Further development may bring more vibration patterns and even combinations to explain complicated scenes too. Ford has been working on a bunch of interesting technologies of late, and we recently reported on its surrogate drone patent, where it aims to use UAVs to replace a specific sensor in case it is damaged or disabled in a car. All of this points towards advanced and smart mobility solutions, a factor that Ford has been keen on for a while now.

Watch the video of Ford's Feel The View setup here:

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Souvik Das

The one that switches between BMWs and Harbour Line Second Class.

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