daily californian logo

BERKELEY'S NEWS • NOVEMBER 27, 2022

Take a look at our 2022 midterm elections special issue!

UC Berkeley researchers create robotic guide dog for visually impaired people

article image

KOUSHIL SREENATH | COURTESY

UC Berkeley researchers from the Sreenath lab modified a quadrupedal robot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into a robot guide dog.

SUPPORT OUR NONPROFIT NEWSROOM

We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

|

Senior Staff

APRIL 12, 2021

As UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Jun Zeng puts on a blindfold, he is led by a guide dog through a maze of cardboard boxes. They reach a narrow path, and the guide dog pauses, readjusts, then pulls on the leash to let Zeng know it is safe to continue.

But this is no ordinary guide dog. This is a robot.

In a paper published March 26, campus researchers modified a quadrupedal robot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into a robot guide dog.

Zhongyu Li is a lead Ph.D. student on a team from the lab led by Koushil Sreenath, campus assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Li said robotic guide dogs will save a lot of time and energy that goes into training a real guide dog.

“Training a dog is very intense, we need to train a dog specifically to teach it how to serve as a guide dog. These leading skills cannot be transferred to another animal,” Li said. “By using a robot dog, we can easily transfer to another machine. We can create multiple body guide dogs to help all kinds of individual people.”

The robot is equipped with a rotating camera to keep track of the person being led and light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, to locate and position itself.

But what sets this robot guide dog apart from others is its leash and its four legs, which help it guide users through narrow spaces such as doors, narrow corridors and corners, according to the paper.

When the robot needs to stop and readjust, Li said it slackens the leash. Once repositioned, the robot will pull the leash taut to let the user know it is safe to continue. The paper added that the leash system replaces previous methods of using a rigid arm as a guiding cane, which can get stuck in tight spaces.

The paper also noted that using legs instead of wheels reduces the space the robot takes up.

“Most prior robotic guiding systems are based on wheeled platforms with large bases,” the paper reads. “The large bases … limit these prior approaches from operating in narrow and cluttered environments.”

According to the paper, the robot guide dog successfully led its users to the end goal without any collisions.

Li said the team has only done indoor research so far but hopes to expand research into outdoor environments, such as leading someone to cross a traffic light. The paper noted that future research would also look into more complicated human movements.

Li added that he is hopeful that this technology will hit the market very soon.

“People can get a robot dog for a very cheap price in the future soon,” Li said. “Once we develop one algorithm, we can copy-paste for all kinds of robot dogs. It won’t be too long. The price is getting lower and lower nowadays.”

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.
LAST UPDATED

APRIL 13, 2021


Related Articles

featured article
Researchers used a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, X-ray device to gain insight into the process by which lithium-ion batteries, such as those found in electric vehicles, lose battery life over time.
Researchers used a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, X-ray device to gain insight into the process by which lithium-ion batteries, such as those found in electric vehicles, lose battery life over time.
featured article
featured article
As part of efforts to track levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, UC Berkeley announced its wastewater testing dashboard Wednesday, which monitors levels of the virus in sewage. 
As part of efforts to track levels of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, UC Berkeley announced its wastewater testing dashboard Wednesday, which monitors levels of the virus in sewage. 
featured article
featured article
After 70 years of facing challenges to studying actinide elements due to their scarcity and radioactivity, researchers can now analyze and image these elements in nanogram amounts using regular equipment.
After 70 years of facing challenges to studying actinide elements due to their scarcity and radioactivity, researchers can now analyze and image these elements in nanogram amounts using regular equipment.
featured article