Skip to Main Content
The use of electromagnetic (EM) fields for obstacle detection to aid mobility of visually impaired people is presented in this paper. The method proposed is based on the launch of EM pulses and on the measurement of the reflected signal which explores a region in front of the user of about 3 m. A laboratory system is set up, its performances (detecting the presence and the distance of obstacles) are investigated, and the measurements are compared with the data measured by an ultrasonic obstacle detection system. Results show that, with the EM system, all the obstacles tested (up to a minimum size of 3 cm × 3 cm, at a distance of 3 m) are correctly detected, as well as some specific targets (a chain, a pole, etc.) that are not visible by the ultrasonic system. The EM system has been tested in indoor and outdoor cluttered scenarios at the presence of real obstacles (single and multiple), and in all cases, it detects their presence with a signal-to-noise ratio ranging from 10 to 23 dB. Despite the use of a laboratory system, still not specifically designed for daily use, this paper demonstrates the possibility of adopting EM held pulses for obstacle detection, highlighting advantages with respect to ultrasonic systems and addressing future research activity to design an improved ad hoc EM system.