BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Advances in artificial intelligence are being put to the test in Colorado.

It’s part of a new prototype researchers are working on at the University of Colorado Boulder that would help people who are visually impaired. The team of students is developing a “smart cane” designed to help with day-to-day tasks, like grocery shopping.

Camera, AI help map the world

Dan Burke has been using his white cane for about three decades. When he goes grocery shopping, Burke said he uses a shopper’s assistant.

“It’s someone to go through and help me find the items that I want,” Burke said. “The downside is, I may not be aware of all the things that are in there or just browsing the same way that I might if I didn’t have someone whose time I am taking up.”

Researchers at CU Boulder are working to change that with the development of a smart cane.

Right now it’s only a prototype, but it uses a camera and computer vision technology with AI to map the world around it. While at the grocery store, the cane guides the user with vibrations and spoken directions.

‘Smart cane’ prototype a work in progress

“We thought maybe a system that can kind of emulate that and help them with sensing what’s around them can enable them to do the entire task on their own,” Shivendra Agrawal, a doctoral student at CU Boulder, said.

Agrawal said the team’s been working on the prototype for about two years.

“We believe that the technology is mature enough,” Agrawal said. “The computing is mature enough that now we can practically try to solve these problems.”

It’s not finished, but Burke said it’s a start.

“I’m curious to see where it’s going to go,” Burke said. “I’m curious to see what will happen. I think this is a fascinating approach to try and use AI in ways that will benefit somebody.

Agrawal said their next steps involve working with people who are visually impaired and gathering feedback on the prototype.