Arnaud Lenglet came up with the idea of creating PANDA Guide, an augmented reality audio headset, after a blind friend fell on a railway station platform. Its mission is to restore the sight of visually impaired, partially sighted or blind people. Or rather, to help give them eyes – via their ears! In the form of an audio headset fitted with a miniature camera, PANDA Guide uses a range of technology including cognitive vision, artificial intelligence, osteophony and 3D sound. It reacts to its user’s voice and responds to their requests by describing the environment. While it doesn’t replace human assistance, this clever and discreet device helps to give a new level of independence to visually impaired people.
"The EDF Pulse Awards prize money is a real bonus – it's going to change everything."
Arnaud Lenglet - CEO of PANDA Guide
This project to tackle the challenges of visual impairment is truly unifying, if winning the Audience Award at the 2017 EDF Pulse Awards is anything to go by. It just goes to show that “it’s worth racking your brains to solve difficult problems!”, says Arnaud Lenglet. So far, software prototypes for the audio headset – which warns the user of potential drops or obstacles – have been created, as has a prototype of the actual headset itself. The EDF Pulse Awards prize money, along with a fundraising round currently under way, should help to accelerate production and launch pre-orders.
€30K raised since 2017
6 employees and an advisory committee of 5 people with visual impairments
6m The radius around the wearer within all obstacles are detected
This summer, a blind friend fell between a train and the platform. This accident was a wake-up call. With my background in the world of robotic engineering, I asked myself how such an accident could still occur in today's world. A simple summer project turned into a startup and a solution: PANDA Guide, the first virtual companion dedicated to the independence of visually-impaired, poorly-sighted and blind people.
Any recent good news?
We recently welcomed a fifth member, who will be responsible for marketing and user acquisition, to the team. We also won a Scientipôle award, which gives us access to an excellent network.
What is the most unexpected thing that your startup has made you do?
Last September, I spent a week living like a blind person. It was awful, a real nightmare. I hadn't expected it to be so difficult and, above all, I hadn’t thought that the psychological aspect of losing one’s sight would be the hardest thing to bear. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that I did it as it made me aware of a whole new world.
In what way does your project revolutionise your category?
We give back some independence to people who need it, not through complicated and bulky devices, but with a simple smartphone. Thanks to PANDA Guide, for the first time, visually-impaired people have a companion in their pocket that can guide them on request and answer their questions on the world around them. PANDA Guide is designed to work alongside human assistance, not replace it. At last, our users can choose the assistance they require, rather than having it imposed upon them. And that is revolutionary.