Blind and visually impaired people face many challenges not only in everyday life but also in self-actualization. The inability to read a text on the go, navigate in space, and play their favorite sports are all challenges that the blind community faces everywhere. Fortunately, scientists and engineers are now offering solutions to expand inclusion. Such as a fingerreader for reading, smart canes for spatial orientation… And Optic navigation device, for sports.
At the University of Loughborough, scientists have designed a device that will allow both blind and partially sighted swimmers to train more effectively and safely.
The Optic: How it works
The Optic is a device invented by Mirthe Hofstede a graduate student that uses three technologies to work, which are:
- Infrared rays;
- bone conduction hearing;
- Ultrasonic waves.
With their help, the device determines as many as two parameters. The location of the swimmer in the pool, because the athlete must swim in the middle of the lane. And also the distance that at this moment separates a particular athlete from the wall.
The components of Optic
The new navigation aid is arranged as simply as possible, it has only two components, which are:
- A soft suction cup. It attaches to the wall of the pool.
- A special transmitter that attaches to each swimmer’s goggles.
Both components contain sensors.
In real-time, the Optic device determines the distance separating the blind swimmer from the pool wall and also helps the athlete to determine if he/she is veering left or right from the middle of the lane.
The latter task is often difficult for blind swimmers because they cannot see the guide strip on the bottom of the pool that their sighted counterparts use.
The benefits of the Optic navigation device for blind
The Optic navigation device can reduce injuries among blind and visually impaired swimmers. Nowadays coaches help athletes with low vision to navigate in space. They are the ones who give the signal when the swimmer needs to change direction. However, this approach makes the athlete dependent on the speed of others’ reactions. An untimely turnaround leads to either injuries or disqualifications.
The Optic inventor hopes that one day her visual aid will not only be available to every blind swimmer but also mandatory for use in competitions.