Lucy is our seven year-old border collie schipperke mix. We got her as a puppy. 18 months ago she was diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Atrophy -- she is not getting enough blood flow to her retinae and she is slowly going blind. There is no cure.
She can still see in bright light, but has difficulty seeing in dim light or at night. She memorized our house layout and normally doesn't have any difficulty getting around day or night unless something has moved. Occasionally she bumps into something left in the middle of the floor or a drawer left unclosed.
We purchased a halo. It is a metal hoop that surrounds her head. If she inadvertently gets too close to an object the halo will collide with the object instead of her head. The halo is attached in two locations to her body -- a strap around her neck, and a strap around her chest. The contraption looks uncomfortable to me, but Lucy has tolerated it the few times we have burdened her with it. There must be a better way.
I have begun to investigate an alternative to the halo. Lucy still has all of her other senses. I think that I can design and manufacture an electronic equivalent to the halo that will be smaller, lighter, and function better that what is available now.
- Fit -- should be easily applied and removed. Location above the head or below the jaw (TBD). Lucy should be able to sleep with the halo attached.
- Light -- Lucy is a small dog, about 25 pounds. The entire unit should weigh just a few ounces.
- Range and direction -- should be able to detect object from about 10mm to 1000mm. It should be able to indicate the position and approximate distance of the nearest object within range. Additionally, it should be able to indicate position and range of multiple objects (a stretch goal).
- It should perform similarly in brightly lit and poorly lit environments.
- It should not degrade Lucy's other senses.
- Battery operated -- 170 hrs of operation from a rechargeable lithium battery cell.
My first inclination is to use distance sensors coupled with a microprocessor to detect objects within range. I intend to use some sort of aural feedback to communicate distance and location via stereo speakers.
More to come -- later.