'UltraBike' for blind cyclists unveiled at Glasgow conference

media captionA new sensor bike for partially-sighted cyclists is unveiled in Glasgow

A bicycle that uses ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles in a cyclist's path is among the innovations on display at a conference in Glasgow.

The two-day Technology for Life event is exploring how new technology can transform the lives of blind and partially sighted people.

Delegates have been given a chance to try the UltraBike, which allows people with sight loss to cycle independently.

The event has been organised by the RNIB Scotland charity.

The UltraBike has been created by Harrogate-based Sound Foresight Technology.

Other exhibits include "smart-specs" that automatically focus light on undamaged areas of the eye, and a tool developed by Dunfermline-based company Optos which diagnoses health problems just by scanning the retina in the eye.

'Exciting possibilities'

RNIB Scotland director John Legg said: "New technology has revolutionised the aids and adaptations that visually impaired people now use for everyday living.

"Today, thousands of products make living with sight loss easier and help people remain independent. They have transformed home, work, leisure, education and travel so people with sight loss are no longer reliant on others.

"But cost and the rapidly increasing pace of development could still end up leaving many people behind, making the "digital divide" wider than ever.

"We are still concerned that their needs might ultimately lose pace with the sheer speed of future developments. We want to ensure that the new Digital Age opens up the same exciting possibilities for them as it does for the sighted population."

He added: "We want designers to keep thinking about how to realise new technology's potential to help blind and partially sighted people be part of an inclusive society.

"Sight loss will be a more common feature of society because of our ageing population. But many older people are less confident and aware of new applications while some access software can cost significantly more than a computer itself. The challenge now is to ensure that, as technology evolves exponentially, blind and partially sighted people don't get left behind."

Speakers at the event, which started at the Glasgow Science Centre on Thursday, include Health Secretary Alex Neil and Glasgow city council leader Gordon Matheson.

Mr Matheson explained how the city beat 29 others to win £24m of funding to demonstrate how technology can make life in the city - and next year's Commonwealth Games - smarter and more accessible.

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