Listen to this text
Glidance Inc. has been creating Glide, a robotic strolling help for individuals with imaginative and prescient impairments. The Seattle-based firm’s machine has an ergonomic deal with, and its sensors are designed to assist customers keep away from obstacles, discover waypoints on maps, and cease at stairs and elevators.
In October 2023, Glidance, which is a resident member of MassRobotics, received the RoboBusiness Pitchfire startup competitors. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has additionally acknowledged the firm with an innovation award, and it plans to reveal Glide at CES 2024 from Jan. 9 to 12 in Las Vegas.
The Robot Report lately spoke with Amos Miller, founder and CEO of Glidance, concerning the growth of Glide and plans for commercialization.
Tell us what you’re constructing.
Miller: At Glidance, our mission is to revolutionize impartial mobility for individuals with sight loss. And I don’t use the phrase “revolutionize” frivolously.
We are doing that with a brand new self-guided mobility help known as “Glide” that makes use of AI and sensors to information an individual, present them the way in which, assist them keep away from obstacles, make them conscious of what’s round them, and convey again their independence and their potential to get round with confidence.
What was your inspiration for this product, and the way did you got here up with the idea of giving independence again to individuals with imaginative and prescient impairments?
Miller: I misplaced my sight in my 20s on account of a genetic situation known as retinitis pigmentosa. I misplaced my sight regularly whereas I used to be ending my laptop science diploma and beginning my profession in excessive tech.
By the age of 30, I had misplaced all helpful sight. I’ve lived in Israel, the U.Ok., Singapore, and now within the U.S. I’ve lived my total grownup life with sight loss. Everywhere I am going, I’ve to take care of impartial mobility day-after-day of my life.
I’m a guide-dog person and I may also use a cane, however I’m a horrible cane person. I’ve at all times appreciated the information canine as an assistant. But a canine doesn’t assist in case you don’t know the structure of a practice station, and you must wait half-hour for any individual to return meet you and information you to your practice. Those are the kinds of challenges that I’ve at all times needed to take care of each day.
Why weren’t you an excellent cane person? What are a number of the issues that you simply had attempting to make use of a cane?
Miller: The cane is a tremendous know-how. It has been round for hundreds of years. Today, it’s by far probably the most used assistive know-how, and folks can purchase it for 25 bucks.
To use a cane successfully, you “shoreline” to really feel an impediment and get round that impediment. Shoreline implies that as you’re strolling alongside a sidewalk, you faucet alongside the sting of the constructing or the sting of the highway with the intention to maintain a straight line. But you continue to must be extraordinarily well-oriented as to the place you’re inside a city or a constructing.
You must take all of the indicators round you too, utilizing your entire senses, to know the place you’re alongside the road. Mentally, you’re feeling for the subsequent landmark — it could possibly be a tree, it could possibly be a bush, it could possibly be a lamppost. That requires plenty of focus and plenty of talent. This talent could be developed, but it surely takes time to develop.
I take advantage of a information canine, which is a really completely different guiding resolution, however I nonetheless want my orientation. With a information canine, the canine guides you thru the world. So it’s most likely nearer to what the Glide does.
I might say that plenty of blind individuals would think about Glidance to be somewhat bit like an digital information canine. From a behavioral perspective, it is similar in the way in which that it guides.
An actual information canine sees an impediment forward of time and takes you round it. And that’s precisely how Glidance works. Glide sees the impediment and takes you round. The result’s a a lot decrease cognitive load and permits you to take heed to your e-mails or discuss on the telephone whilst you transfer with Glide.
The evolution of Glide
How did Glide evolve from the preliminary idea, which pulled the person by means of the world, to the ultimate model?
Miller: Initially, we explored placing a motor on the wheels, as that was the pure place to start out. If you’re employed with a sighted one that’s guiding you, there are two methods of doing that.
One is that you simply contact their elbow or the opposite is the unwelcome approach, in that they seize your hand. If they seize your hand, they’re now pulling you, and you are feeling a complete lack of company. You’re now only a trolley, alongside for the trip.
The most well-liked approach for sighted guiding is that I contact the elbow of the sighted individual, and so they stroll. But I nonetheless decide velocity, I decide the steps and the angles that I transfer my physique in.
When you might have a robotic that pulls you round, you lose that company instantly. I’ve tried different robots, and when the robotic is totally autonomous and pulls you round, you lose all sense of company. It simply doesn’t really feel proper.
By eradicating the motors from the wheels, the person merely nudges the machine ahead; it’s very gentle. The second they begin pushing it ahead, the wheels begin to servo and steer the way in which. But all of the company within the management continues to be with the person. They don’t have to maneuver knobs up and down to manage the velocity of the robotic, after they need to cease, they cease.
From an expertise perspective, our customers love that. It additionally reduces the complexity of the system, reduces the load of the unit, doesn’t require large batteries, and lowers the general value.
Can you’re taking us by means of the obstacle-avoidance system? What are a number of the sensors that you simply’re utilizing?
Miller: We have native and world planning onboard the system. We have quite a lot of sensors which can be on the cell unit stage and one other set on the backside of the unit simply above the wheels.
f there’s one thing in the way in which, the sensors will detect it, and the wheels will begin to steer you round it. The person is controlling the velocity, and Glide is aware of how briskly you’re going.
How are the haptics giving the person suggestions about pacing and different parts that it perceives?
Miller: The purpose is for the robotic to speak with the person in order that the person stops earlier than an impediment. Because the robotic isn’t pulling the person alongside, it might probably point out to the person by means of haptics and audio on the deal with.
For instance, it double-taps on the deal with to point to the person to decelerate.
How does studying to make use of a information canine evaluate to the expertise studying to make use of Glide?
Miller: A information canine is superb, however you do must go to a residential program and practice with a brand new canine. It takes weeks of coaching to belief the animal and be taught to work as a crew. It takes plenty of effort, plus you must substitute your canine each 5 to 6 years, which is once more one other upheaval in your life.
We know that there are 7.3 million individuals with important or whole sight loss within the U.S., however there are solely 10,000 new information canines accessible in any given yr. I believe canines will proceed to be a part of the material of impartial mobility for years to return.
At the identical time, 99.9% of blind individuals won’t ever take pleasure in a information canine.
A brand new Glide person can be taught to make use of the answer in a few hours. For a person who loses their sight late in life, which is now an rising pattern, an answer like Glide often is the quickest and easiest technique to return a way of independence to that particular person. This is the chance for Glide.
Glidance will get prepared for market
Will Glide combine its machine with GPS, Google Maps, or Apple Maps to make use of navigation directions?
Miller: We may have mapping capabilities in Glide, however I don’t plan for Glide to be a navigation help. I don’t need to construct my very own navigation app.
But it should work with present navigation apps. So in case you set a vacation spot for a restaurant on Google, its strolling instructions are despatched to Glide to make use of as waypoints. Glide will do the native planning to these waypoints alongside the way in which and get you to that restaurant.
We additionally plan to combine apps just like the Target app, the place you create your purchasing checklist on the Target app, and the Target app tells you the place you’re within the retailer and the place the product is.
Glide has cameras and wheel odometry, and all the required sensors to do SLAM [simultaneous localization and mapping] within the retailer. So Glide might pair up with a Target app and enable you get to that shelf within the retailer.
Can you share the value level for the manufacturing resolution?
Miller: This resolution should be reasonably priced. It’s not going to be $25 like a cane, however we’re aiming on the value vary of a cellphone subscription.
You’ll begin with a fundamental subscription, relying on the extent of options that you really want. The fundamental options will match the wants of latest customers, and world vacationers can improve the product by turning on extra options to fulfill their wants.
We are additionally working with the VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] and with insurance coverage firms to guarantee that anybody can get the machine. We count on to start out our beta program within the spring of 2024.
Where can people discover you at CES 2024?
Miller: The CTA Foundation gave us an award for a free sales space at Eureka Park.
Editor’s observe: This interview was transcribed by https://otter.ai and edited for readability. You can take heed to the complete interview with Amos Miller on this episode of The Robot Report Podcast: