A team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan has unveiled an innovative device that helps the visually impaired play badminton.
Called Drone Badminton, it enables people with low vision to play badminton again using a drone as a ball, and a racket can move a drone. Although the current design specifically targets badminton enthusiasts, the project has the potential to diversify the physical activities available and improve physical and mental health for people with low vision.
To develop this drone, the team interviewed several individuals with low vision to identify the difficulties they face when playing mid-air sports. Most of the interviewees said the small size of the ball and its high speed are the main issues for them in real badminton. The researchers took these complaints into consideration and come up with their solution.
The Drone Badminton uses a drone as a ball that is large enough, can adjust its speed, and emits a distinctive flight sound. This enables people with low vision to recognize the ball moving in the air successfully.
The device is completed with a set of special rackets that can identify the drone ball via a sensor system that is attached to their frames. The racket has no netting; instead, it uses the sensors that allow them to detect the drone as it passes through their hoop, thus changing its direction and sending it back to the opponent.
This project has the potential to greatly expand the variety of low vision competitions while allowing people with low vision to re-experience competitions such as swinging their rackets upwards, which was once possible.