Biped unveils smart harness to help visually impaired people avoid obstacles while walking

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According to the company, biped.ai includes a comfortable and lightweight collar fitted with 3d cameras that continuously monitor a 170° field of view for the user detecting, tracking and predicting the trajectories of all surrounding elements a few seconds in advance.

Swiss-start-up biped recently demonstrated its AI-co-pilot for blind and visually impaired people during the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 in Las Vegas.

According to the company, biped.ai includes a comfortable and lightweight collar fitted with 3D cameras that continuously monitor a 170° field of view for the user detecting, tracking and predicting the trajectories of all surrounding elements a few seconds in advance. It then filters the relevant information and warns the wearer via immersive 3D sounds.

“This mirrors the way autonomous vehicles work,” CEO and co-founder Mael Fabien said in a statement. “biped will, for example, warn a user about a bike 12 meters ahead on the user’s trajectory, but ignore an object that is closer but with no collision risk.”

According to the release, biped was formed in January 2021 after Fabien met his co-founder and CTO Bruno Vollmer at the International Create Challenge hackathon in Switzerland.

“I was both inspired by my research and by working next to the main ophthalmic hospital in Lausanne,” Fabien said in the release. “Every day I would encounter blind and visually impaired people and wondered if we could go beyond sticks and guide-dogs to help them.”

Further research revealed that only 5% of the estimated 5 million fully blind people in Europe and the US would take up the option of a guide-dog. Furthermore, the biped team also discovered that younger people are interested in solutions that are less stigmatizing than a stick.

Fabien pointed out that the company worked extensively with trialists on the user-friendliness of biped and the model shown recently at CES incorporates their feedback. The collar weighs under 1 kg and can be worn over any thickness of clothing – from t-shirts to parkas – and has no clips or special fastenings. It also looks like a rucksack strap rather than a medical device. The signals are transmitted through comfortable bone conduction earphones and the system can also connect to mobile apps to use GPS.”

According to the company, it recently closed a $1.1 million seed round from Swiss and French business angels and a Swiss VC and is now filing for Class I medical device status.

Fabien added that the company’s goal is to launch first in Switzerland in Q2 and then the US in early 2023.

“Sales will be either direct or by monthly subscription,” Fabien concluded. “We also see an opportunity for campuses and large companies to loan bipeds to visitors. Overall, we hope to make a major difference to the quality of life for blind and visually impaired people worldwide.”