Blind man, 'born to run’, completes solo 5-km run with trial app to guide him

His navigation aid? Artificial intelligence through headphones plugged into a smartphone

Blind man, 'born to run’, completes solo 5-km run with trial app to guide him

Thomas Panek, a blind runner and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, gets ready for a 5-km run at Central Park in New York, US. Reuters

New York, November 21

A blind man completed a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run in New York's Central Park without a guide dog or human help this week. His navigation aid?

Artificial intelligence through headphones plugged into a smartphone.

"The safest thing for a blind man is to sit still. I ain't sitting still," said Thomas Panek, 50, who lost his vision in his early 20s due to a genetic condition and runs Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a guide dog school.

The marathon enthusiast got tired of having to follow slower runners as a guide. So he decided a year ago to find a way to run solo.

He turned to Google to find a way for a phone to "tell me where to go," said Panek, who believes "humans are born to run." He worked with the Alphabet Inc unit to create a research program. A smartphone camera picks up a painted 'guideline' on a running track. An app detects the runner's position and gives audio guidance through an earpiece.

"It's like teaching a kid how to learn where the line is," said Google researcher Xuan Yang.

Pandemic-related social distancing gave a boost to the research to circumvent human and canine helpers.

"To be able to be here, it's real emotional," Panek said after his test of the app on a chilly fall afternoon, in an event sponsored by Google and the New York Road Runners Club on Thursday.

"It's a real feeling of not only freedom and independence, but also, you know, you get that sense that you're just like anybody else." Reuters

Top Stories

Flying Sikh Milkha Singh dies of Covid complications at 91

Flying Sikh Milkha Singh dies of Covid complications at 91

The legendary Olympian turned critical late Friday evening a...

Milkha Singh: An unmatchable romance with a near miss

Milkha Singh: An unmatchable romance with a near miss

He became the first Indian athlete to win an individual gold...

Pre-poll bonanza for 5.4L govt employees; Punjab to implement 6th pay panel report

Pre-poll bonanza for 5.4L govt employees; Punjab to implement 6th pay panel report

With retrospective effect from January 1, 2016

Delhi High Court order granting bail to 3 student-activists booked under UAPA can't be treated as precedent: SC

Delhi High Court order granting bail to 3 student-activists booked under UAPA can't be treated as precedent: SC

Top court issues notice to Kalita, Narwal and Tanha; hearing...

Cities

View All