a smart harness that works like an autonomous vehicle
at CES 2022, swiss startup biped premiered an AI copilot for persons who are blind or have a visual impairment. the company’s eponymous device straps onto shoulders like a backpack and films the surroundings with 3D cameras. biped then analyzes the environment to detect and predict obstacles several seconds in advance. it then filters the relevant information and warns the wearer via immersive 3D sounds transmitted through bone conduction earphones.
‘this mirrors the way autonomous vehicles work,’ explains CEO and co-founder, mael fabien. ‘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.’
images courtesy of biped
biped was co-founded in january 2021 by mael fabien and bruno vollmer after they met at a hackathon, the international create challenge, in switzerland. fabien was working on audio processing while vollmer was an expert in computer vision. the biped project draws from fabien’s research and the duo’s drive to have a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.
‘I was both inspired by my research and by working next to the main ophthalmic hospital in lausanne,’ continues fabien. ‘every day I would encounter blind and visually impaired people and wondered if we could go beyond sticks and guide-dogs to help them.’
the biped smart harness was also born from the idea to create a stigma-free solution that doesn’t look like a medical device. biped features a 170° field of view, weighs less than 950 grams, and is fitted with a removable battery that lasts for over six hours. it can also connect to the GPS on your smartphone, navigating you to where you need to be.
biped has no special clips or fastenings
following its world premiere at CES 2022 in las vegas, the biped team is hoping to certify the device as a class I medical device status. they’ve also launched a beta testing program for user feedback before a public launch of the product later in 2022.
‘our aim is to launch first in switzerland in Q2 and then the US in early 2023. sales will be either direct or by monthly subscription. 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,’ concludes fabien.
biped has launched a beta testing program to trial the device