A new high-tech walking cane, equipped with built-in sonar, has been developed by Indian scientists as an aid for visually impaired people.
The "Smartcane" is designed to guide people who are blind through busy streets and environments by extending the reach of the widely used white cane, CNN
"On the streets the sidewalks are cluttered with street vendors, animals, streetlights and other obstacles which make them uncomfortable even for sighted people," said Meenakshi Balakrishnan, a computer engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology, in Delhi, who heads the team behind the cane.
"A white cane is an excellent device, providing a lot of information to users," he said. "But it is poor at detecting obstacles that are above waist height and do not have a touch-point on the ground, such as a tree branches sticking out into your path."
The Smartcane mimics the abilities of animals such as bats, which emit sonar calls into their surroundings and use the echoes bouncing back from nearby objects to divert around them.
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The technology sends out ultrasound waves via a device attached to a standard white cane; it detects them on their return, and uses vibrations to inform users of any obstacles in their way.
Similar technologies existing in countries including South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom, where the "Ultracane" has been available since 2011.