Google is testing an AI system to help vision-impaired people run races

The Project Guideline app can keep them on track with audio cues.


Google is testing an artificial intelligence system designed to help blind and vision-impaired people to run races by themselves. Project Guideline, which is an early-phase research program, is an attempt to give those people more independence. They wouldn't necessarily need to rely on a tethered human guide or a guide dog to help them around a course.

To use the system, a runner attaches an Android phone to a Google-designed harness that goes around their waist, according to VentureBeat. A Project Guideline app can use the phone's camera to track a guideline that's been laid down on a course. The app then sends audio cues to bone-conducting headphones when a runner veers away from the line -- the sound will get louder in one ear the further they stray to the side. The app doesn't need an internet connection to work, and it can account for a number of lighting and weather conditions.

Google developed the system with the help of Thomas Panek, president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and an avid runner. It's looking to team up with other organizations to set up courses with painted guidelines in a number of communities.

The company has rolled out a number of other features in recent years to assist blind and vision-impaired people. Detailed spoken walking directions in Google Maps may help them to move around town independently. Chrome’s AI can recognize images and provide descriptions of what they depict. Google's Lookout app, meanwhile, can give users an audio cue if there's a possible obstacle in their path and read documents out loud.