Machine vision system could help the visually impaired shop for food
By Cherie Winner

For those of us who can see, it is. For those of us who are blind or have limited vision, a simple trip to the grocery store can be a major chore.
“You always have to find someone at the store to help you,” says Michelle McManus, an IT consultant at Penn State and president of the Happy Valley chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. “Then you have to explain exactly what you want — ” and hope the person helping you is diligent about getting it right.
Now researchers at Penn State are leading an effort to help visually-impaired people shop independently. They’re creating machines that can interpret a complex visual scene much as the human brain does. They’re making machines that can truly see.

Ambitious vision

This work is part of “Visual Cortex on Silicon,” a massive endeavor that spans fields of inquiry ranging from materials design to brain circuitry and includes nearly 50 researchers, from grad students to senior scientists, at Penn State and seven other institutions. Research is under way on many fronts at the same time, with new findings from each field shedding light on the problems in other fields. What neuroscientists learn about the architecture of the mammalian visual cortex helps computer scientists design circuits that reflect the way the brain works. 
In 2013 the project won a five-year, $10 million “Expeditions in Computing” award from the National Science Foundation. It is led by Penn State computer scientist Vijay Narayanan, who speaks in rapid-fire bursts and thrives on complex collaborative projects……….
Source: PennState News