BBC Future

TED Quotes

Making a car for blind drivers

A blind person driving a vehicle safely and independently was thought to be an impossible task - until now. — Dennis Hong

Synopsis

Using robotics, laser rangefinders, GPS and smart feedback tools, Dennis Hong is building a car for drivers who are blind. It's not a "self-driving" car, he's careful to note, but a car in which a non-sighted driver can determine speed, proximity and route - and drive independently. Talk recorded 4 March 2011.

About the Speaker

Dennis Hong is the founder and director of RoMeLa - a Virginia Tech robotics lab in the US that has pioneered several breakthroughs in robot design and engineering. As director of a groundbreaking robotics lab, Dennis Hong guides his team of students through projects on robot locomotion and mechanism design, creating award-winning humanoid robots like Darwin (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence). His team is known as Romela (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) and operates at Virginia Tech.

Hong has also pioneered various innovations in soft-body robots, using a “whole-skin locomotion” as inspired by amoebae. Marrying robotics with biochemistry, he has been able to generate new types of motion with these ingenious forms. For his contributions to the field, Hong was selected as a Nasa Summer Faculty Fellow in 2005, given the Career award by the National Science Foundation in 2007 and in 2009, named as one of Popular Science's Brilliant 10. He is also a gourmet chef and a magician, performing shows for charity and lecturing on the science of magic.

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