Google tests technology to help blind athletes exercise independently

Google LLC has reportedly tested some technology on legally blind athletes in Salt Lake City, Utah, which would one day allow them to exercise unassisted.

Labelled as the Project Guideline, a collaboration between Google and global non-profit Achilles International, the technology is being tested across 20 cities in the United States and Salt Lake City is one of the testing sites.

According to Ken Duke, President of the Achilles Utah chapter, six legally blind runners along with seven volunteers to assist them, tested the technology at Sugar House Park. It is worth noting that Mr. Duke is also one of the legally blind runners.

Equipped with headphones and a cell phone, runners like Duke will be able to follow an assigned path to run unassisted.

Mikhail Sirotenko, Research Technical Lead Manager at Google, revealed that the cell phone will be deployed around the waist of the runner and will use an app to follow a painted line on the ground to notify the runner if they are going off the path.

If they are going too far to the left, a signal will buzz in the left ear through the earphones, and likewise when the runner veers too far to the right. Furthermore, the cell phone will not require any internet connectivity.

Sirotenko added that this test will enable the team to understand if on-device technology through a mobile phone can one day offer improved experiences for the low vision and blind community by offering more helpful options.

He cited that the project is in its early stages and still needs a sighted individual to assist in operating the system. Apparently, the painted line is meant for obstacle-free pedestrian-only paths.

Interestingly, Mr. Duke was born with a retinal degenerative disorder. His vision decreased gradually, and he was completely blind five years ago.

However, he tackled all the obstacles and completed five Ragnar races and 59 marathons.

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