Navigating Real-World Challenges: A Quadruped Robot Guiding System for Visually Impaired People in Diverse Environments


Shaojun Cai, Ashwin Ram, Zhengtai Gou, Mohd Alqama Wasim Shaikh, Yu-An Chen, Yingjia Wan, Kotaro Hara, Shengdong Zhao, and David Hsu


CHI '24: Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, May 2024, Article No.: 44, Pages 1–18, https://doi.org/10.1145/3613904.3642227


Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) people find challenges in navigating unfamiliar environments, even using assistive tools such as white canes or smart devices. Increasingly affordable quadruped robots offer us opportunities to design autonomous guides that could improve how BVI people find ways around unfamiliar environments and maneuver therein. In this work, we designed RDog, a quadruped robot guiding system that supports BVI individuals’ navigation and obstacle avoidance in indoor and outdoor environments. RDog combines an advanced mapping and navigation system to guide users with force feedback and preemptive voice feedback. Using this robot as an evaluation apparatus, we conducted experiments to investigate the difference in BVI people’s ambulatory behaviors using a white cane, a smart cane, and RDog. Results illustrated the benefits of RDog-based ambulation, including faster and smoother navigation with fewer collisions and limitations, and reduced cognitive load. We discuss the implications of our work for multi-terrain assistive guidance systems.