Robot guide called Pepper could help blind and partially sighted people in Forth Valley

Forth Valley’s blind and partially sighted community got a glimpse of the future when staff and research students from the University of Glasgow demonstrated ‘Pepper’ - a robot specially created to guide people with sight loss around buildings.

Thursday, 27th January 2022, 11:30 am
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 11:30 am

It was designed by the Communication, Sensing and Imaging (CSI) Research Group as part of a £50m investment in next generation infrastructure development at the University of Glasgow.

Pepper is able to ‘learn’ the layout of a building, avoid obstacles and even recognise different objects so they can guide a blind person to exactly what they need.

It was showcased at a demonstration at Forth Valley Sensory Centre this week – and given a warm welcome.

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Guests at the presentation of Pepper at Forth Valley Sensory Centre

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Jacquie Winning MBE, chief executive, said: “We saw during the pandemic huge issues with people struggling to social distance and stores being fearful of assisting blind people to shop.

“Pepper is a wonderful solution to that problem.”

She said the white cane used by many people was a symbol of blindness but one “lots of people don’t respect”She added: “People describe it as an obstacle finder - the user must hit the object they need to avoid before they can move around it.

Kyle Somerville, 20, from Falkirk with robot guide Pepper

“This can lead to confrontation. Centre users have been verbally abused for bumping into vehicles parked on the pavement.

“We hope that full trials of both these technologies will prove fruitful and be a great benefit to the blind and partially sighted community.”

The demonstration event was supported by RNIB Scotland.

Centre User, Kyle Somerville, 20, from Falkirk who is blind, tried out Pepper and thought the concept really had potential.

He said: “Pepper is really cool. He was very easy to follow and the humanoid design is very interesting.

“I don’t know if everyone will like it and I can imagine the first ones attracting a lot of attention from the public but it is an amazing concept.

“I’ve heard about ideas for robot guide dogs before but to actually meet a device like that was brilliant. It would be very useful when visiting a new or different place. The future is definitely technology.”

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