Thomas Panek, who lost his vision in his early 20s due to a genetic condition, has completed a 5km run in New York’s Central Park with out the help of a dog or human. He used Artificial intelligence through headphones plugged into a smartphone. The 50-year-old was a marathon enthusiast who became increasingly frustrated with being forced to follow slower runners as a guide, so he recently decided to look for new ways to run solo. 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. The camera on a phone attached to a harness harnesses AI to constantly sweep the road for markers informing people of their position. Within a few months, and a few adjustments, he was able to run laps on an indoor track without either a human or canine guide. He hopes Project Guideline can be adapted and expanded to provide independence to more people like him.