MIT Fifth Sense Project:
Providing the Functions of Sight to Blind People

Our team of researchers at MIT and Northeastern University is developing wearable devices for blind and low-vision people. These devices combine sensing, computation and interaction to provide the wearer with timely, task-appropriate information about the surroundings – the kind of information that sighted people get from their visual systems, typically without conscious effort.

Please support our work with a donation!

We are grateful to the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and to the MIT EECS Super-UROP program for their support of our research.

We are focusing first on three core capabilities:

Safe mobility and navigation:
Walking hazard on sidewalk Current focus:Where is the safe walking surface? Where are the trip and collision hazards?

In future: Where am I? Which way is it to my destination? When is the next turn, landmark or other salient environmental aspect coming up? What type of place am I in, or near? Do my surroundings include text, and if so what is it? Where is the affordance (e.g. kiosk, concierge desk, elevator lobby, water fountain) that I seek? What transit options (bus, taxi, train etc.) are nearby or arriving?


Person detection & identification:
Overhead view of meeting hall with many people Current focus:Are there people nearby or approaching? If so, where is each person, and what is his/her identity?

In future: What is the person's facial expression, body stance, and body language? What kind of clothing is s/he wearing? What is s/he doing?


Tactile/aural interface:
Large surface embossed with Braille dots Current focus:How can information be conveyed non-visually to the user, for example through a MEMS tactile display?

In future:How can the system effectively engage in spoken dialogue with the user, so that the user can specify his/her goals to the system, with the system requesting clarification when needed? When should the system deliver information to the user (e.g., during breaks in conversation)?


Team members include: