Vision may not measured by those things we see alone, but rather by those things we can imagine, we work hard to achieve, and the things we ensure becomes a reality. Thomas Panek (a runner) became blind due to a genetic disorder in his twenties. However, he’s been determined to continue the race.
In an interview with the Reuters, he said:
The safest thing for a blind man is to sit still. I ain’t sitting still.Thomas Panek
Three decades have passed and Thomas Panek is breaking new grounds. Utilizing a cutting-edge app, which he also helped develop, he recently became the first blind runner to run and complete a solo 5K race without any assistance.
In an interview with Time, he said:
I’ve been a runner for my whole life, except I stopped for a time too afraid to run without assistance. I picked up running again using human guides. People volunteered to connect with me with a tether to show the way to go but I would have to leave my guide dog at home—and yet, dogs love to run and I love to run so I really wanted to see with my training from Guiding Eyes for the Blind if it was possible to train a guide dog to run.Thomas Panek
Panek has been using his guide dog for a while and loved his companionship, but he wondered if there’s a way to race without help from any human or dog. He then contacted Google for assistance.
The answer came in the form of a camera-assisted artificial intelligence cell phone app. Using painted track markers, the app calculates a runner’s location and orientation and responds with audio cues to guide them in the right direction.
This is the first time Panek will use the Project Guideline app; this occurred at a co-sponsored Google event and the New York Road Runners Club.
To be able to be here, it’s real emotional. It’s a real feeling of not only freedom and independence, but also, you know, you get that sense that you’re just like anybody else.Thomas Panek