At CES 2023, Switzerland-based Biped showcased a smart navigation harness for people with visual impairment. Biped partnered with Honda Research Institute to develop the eponymous Biped copilot harness with self-driving car technology. The harness informs a wearer with obstacle detection alerts and GPS-based turn-by-turn directions via Bluetooth-connected headphones.

A user wears the Biped harness on their shoulders. The device has ultra-wide-angle cameras with a 170-degree field of view on the front left side of the harness, roughly over the heart. A small computer module is on the right side. A battery pack on the back of the harness, behind the neck, powers both devices. The Biped cameras use both visible light and infrared light, with added iR illumination, to detect obstacles in the wearer’s path. The computer employs AI to evaluate obstacles and calculate the vectors of moving objects. The device emits spatial audio to transmit short 3D alert tones. The tones get louder as obstacles get closer, with the left-right sound balance to signal obstacle location.

If a Biped user hears no alert tones, they can assume it’s safe to proceed, although I imagine it would take a while for someone with total visual impairment to fully trust that the absence of sound always ensures a clear path. Biped suggests the smart harness is appropriate as a complement to a white cane or a guide dog. The GPS navigation function is still in development, according to Biped. The company says a user can get up to 3 hours of run time with hot-swappable battery packs. It takes about 3 hours to charge a battery pack fully.

Biped’s smart harness is CE-cleared and shipping in Europe with FDA clearance pending, according to the company. Blind people and the visually impaired might not rely solely on the Biped to walk through their daily lives, but it is a smart addition to the arsenal of solutions.