Hey Robert!!!!!!! Let's race them down Thomasville.I guess we won't see really usable cars in our lifetime, but it is nice to know we aren't off the radar either.
Darla Darla J. Rogers, B.A., M.S. Skype ID." wildflower0628 "Today, I will search for my own truth and will allow others to do the same. I will place value on my vision, as well as on the vision of others. We are each on the journey, making our own discoveries--the ones that are right for us today."----- Original Message ----- From: "Easy Talk" <easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 8:59 PMSubject: [tabi] Fw: [leadership] [Missouri-l] Blind can take wheel with new vehicle
----- Original Message ----- From: "peter altschul" <paltschul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>To: "Acblead" <leadership@xxxxxxx> Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 7:43 PM Subject: [leadership] [Missouri-l] Blind can take wheel with new vehicle Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind'sJernigan Institute, drives the Virginia Tech Blind DriverChallengevehicle through an obstacle course of traffic cones on a campusparkinglot. In the passenger seat is Greg Jannaman, who led thestudent teamwithin the mechanical engineering department during the pastyear, and ismonitoring the software of the vehicle. Credit: Steven Mackay,VirginiaTechA student team in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering isprovidingthe blind with an opportunity many never thought possible: Theopportunityto drive.A retrofitted four-wheel dirt buggy developed by the BlindDriverChallenge team (http://www.me.vt.edu/blinddriver/) from VirginiaTech'sRobotics and Mechanisms Laboratory uses laser range finders, aninstantvoice command interface and a host of other innovative,cutting-edgetechnology to guide blind drivers as they steer, brake, andaccelerate.Although in the early testing stage, the National Federation oftheBlind -- which spurred the project -- considers the vehicle amajorbreakthrough for independent living of the visually impaired."It was great!" said Wes Majerus, of Baltimore, the first blindperson todrive the buggy on a closed course at the Virginia Tech campusthissummer. Majerus is an access technology specialist with theNationalFederation of the Blind's Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, aresearch andtraining institute dedicated to developing technologies andservices tohelp the blind achieve independence.Majerus called his drive a liberating experience, adding that hedrovebefore on Nebraska farm roads with his father as a guide in thepassengerseat.Sitting inside the vehicle, a blind driver can turn the steeringwheel,stop and accelerate by following data from a computing unit thatusessensory information from the laser range finder serving as the'eyes' ofthe driver, in addition to a combination of voice commands and avibratingvest as guides. A member of the Virginia Tech student team satnext toMajerus in the passenger seat to monitor the system's softwareoperations."It's a great first step," Majerus added. "As far as thedifferencesbetween human instructions and those given by the voice in theBlindDriver Challenge car, the car's instructions are very precise.You use thetechnology to act on the environment -- the driving course -- ina veryorderly manner. In some cases, the human passenger will bevague, "turnleft" -- does that mean just a small turn to the left, or are wegoing forlarge amounts of turn?"Also driving the vehicle was Mark Riccobono, also of Baltimore,theexecutive director of the Jernigan Institute, who also is blind.He calledhis test drive historic. "This is sort of our going to the moonproject,"he saidIn 2004 Jernigan Institute challenged university research teamsto developa vehicle that would one day allow the blind to drive. VirginiaTech wasthe only university in the nation to accept the nonprofit's calltwo yearslater, said Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, part of the Virginia Tech mechanical engineeringdepartment.The National Federation of the Blind provided a $3,000 grant tolaunch theproject."I thought it would be a very rewarding project, helping theblind," saidHong, the current faculty adviser on the project. "We are notonly excitedabout the vehicle itself, but more than that, we are excitedabout thepotential of the many spin-off technologies from this projectthat can beused for helping the blind in so many ways."The team will bring the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle to theNationalFederation of the Blind's Youth Slam summer camp event held July26through Aug. 1 in College Park, Md. There, the team hopes tohaveteenagers who would be obtaining their driver's licenses, butcannotbecause of their blindness, drive the buggy.Wesley Majerus, an access technology specialist with theNationalFederation of the Blind's Jernigan Institute, finishes drivingtheVirginia Tech Blind Driver Challenge vehicle around a roped-offdrivingcourse on a campus parking lot. The experience, he said, wasliberating.Youth participants also are expected to remote control driveminiaturecars. Additionally, the car is expected to ride in a NationalFederationof the Blind-sponsored parade in Washington D.C."I most look forward to learning as much as I can from thesebright youngstudents," said Greg Jannaman, who led the Virginia Tech studentteam inhis senior year and graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. "Blind students from across the nationapply to beselected to attend this summer camp. While we are there toprovide aneducational experience for them, I can only imagine theinvaluablefeedback and fresh new ideas that they will provide in return."Jannaman is excited about the vehicle's success. "There wasn'ta moment'shesitation with any of our blind drivers, whereas blind-foldedsighteddrivers weren't as quick to let go of their preconceptions,"said Jannamanof Hendersonville, Tenn. "The blind drivers actually performedbetter thantheir sighted counterparts. An overwhelming sense ofaccomplishmentovercame me as I simply rode along while Wes and Marksuccessfullynavigated the driving course without my assistance."Early models of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle relied moreontechnologies for fully autonomous vehicles, previously developedbyVirginia Tech mechanical engineering students as part of theDARPA UrbanChallenge. The student team redesigned the vehicle so that theblindmotorist has complete control of the driving process, as anysighteddriver would.This change in approach led to new challenges, including how to effectively convey the high bandwidth of information from thelasersensors scanning the vehicle's surrounding environment to thedriver fastenough and accurate enough to allow safe driving. As a result,the teamdeveloped non-visual interface technologies, including avibrating vestfor feedback on speed, a click counter steering wheel with audiocues,spoken commands for directional feedback, and a unique tactilemapinterface that utilizes compressed air to provide informationabout theroad and obstacles surrounding the vehicle.Riccobono knows of mock ups and non-working "blind driver car"set-upsfrom the past, but says this is the first working vehicle to putthe blindand visually impaired in control of the steering wheel. "Blindpeople havebrains, the capacity to make decisions," he said. "Blind peoplewant tolive independent lives, why would they not want to drive?"Even once the technology is perfected, laws now barring theblind fromdriving and public perception must be changed, Riccobono said."This isthe piece that we know will be the most difficult," saidRiccobono, addingthat the car must be near-perfected before the NationalFederation of theBlind can truly push the car to law-makers and the generalpublic. He saidthis effort will take millions of dollars in development.The 2009-10 student team already is planning major changes tothetechnology, including replacing the dirt buggy vehicle with afullyelectric car commonly used by traffic officers in downtown citycenters.The all-electric vehicle would reduce the vibration which cancauseproblems to the laser sensor, and it will provide clean electricpower forthe computing units and that is better for the environment.Source: Virginia Tech (news : web)To unsubscribe from the Missouri-L list, send an email message to: Missouri-l-request@xxxxxxxxxxx with the word, unsubscribe in the subject field. Other email lists available from MCB include: ATI - A general discussion of adaptive technology. To join, send a blank EMail message to: ATI-Join@xxxxxxxxxxx Chat - A general discussion list. Just about anything goes. To Join, send a blank EMail message to: Chat-Join@xxxxxxxxxxx Visit the MCB home Page at: WWW.MoBlind.Org -- Join the Monthly Monetary Support program (MMS) and help improve tomorrow today in ACB.For details, contact Dr. Ron Milliman, MMS Program Committee Chair, by e-mail: rmilliman@xxxxxxxxxxxxx or by phone at 270-782-9325 and get started making tomorrow look brighter today in ACB!Check out the TABI resource web page at http://acorange.home.comcast.net/TABIto unsubscribe send a message, containing a subject line of the word unsubscribe, to tabi-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxxif you'd like to unsubscribe you can do so through the freelists.org web interface, or by sending an email to the address tabi-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.
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