A device that has been developed in India has the prospective of giving people that have near or total blindness a greater amount of freedom and independence in their lives. The new device, dubbed the ‘SmartCane’ acts like personal radar. By tapping on to the top of the SmartCane, it sends out ultrasonic pulses that are able detect nearby obstacles that are either above the knee level or hanging down from overhead.
When the user becomes too close to an object, the SmartCane begins to vibrate to alert the user. Different proximities to objects will generate different sorts of vibration, thereby giving the user a form of spatial awareness.
The SmartCane was initially a student project; the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi developed it. The mechanism inside the SmartCane costs about $50. It differs from other more expensive models by being removable, so if the cane breaks, the user can put the SmartCane onto a replacement cane.
Users have reported they can walk faster and with more confidence, when they had moved only very cautiously previously to using the SmartCane.
“It feels great to be able to move around alone. I no more need to hold anyone’s hand for my mobility…I can just be myself. Family and friends now have the confidence in me that I can travel independently without getting hurt or injured,” says user Indirani Sankari of Mumbai.
The SmartCane was made available in March of this year. By attaching onto the top of a cane as a supplemental grip, the SmartCane is capable of a range of over 9 feet when used outside, and a range of almost six feet when used indoors. It is capable of detecting objects smaller than two inches wide. The battery life is ‘ok’ as an individual charge will last up to 10 hours.
Even with the use of canes, blind people often find themselves bumping into stationary objects as well as people, thereby causing, at the very least, a measure of embarrassment. Numerous blind people in India have to depend on family members in order to guide them from place to place safely, so this device should help greatly.
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[Image via thebetterindia]