A blind engineer has created a smart cane to aid people with disabilities like him. 2.2 billion people across the world have a vision impairment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so this new technology, which utilizes GPS technology, ultrasonic sensors, and comes with a voice-activated assistant will significantly benefit this group of individuals.
In fact, the WeWALK Smart Cane, which was a contender at the XTC 2019, packs in so much tech that it has been dubbed ‘ingenious’ by experts.
Improving a traditional model
White canes have been useful for people with a visual impairment to detect obstacles around them since the early 1920s. However, as just 8% of people with such an impairment use a white cane, according to Perkins School for the Blind, Kürşat Ceylan knew something had to change. The blind engineer and his colleagues, therefore, decided to update the traditional white cane with modern technology.
One of the first features Ceylan was keen to include in the WeWALK was object detection so that users wouldn’t have to shake their cane from side to side anymore. Ultrasonic sensors in the cane send a vibration to the user’s hand whenever an obstacle is detected anywhere from the ground up to head height, thus reducing the likelihood of a bump occurring. Not only is this beneficial when individuals are out and about, but it also provides significant benefits in the home.
An accessible home is crucial for people with a visual impairment as it keeps them safe in the home and helps them to maintain their independence. All landlords have a responsibility to provide accessible features in all properties they let out. For people living with a visual impairment this may include modifying doorways and units and installing smart technology. The WeWalk can work hand in hand with these adaptations by warning users of danger following a new modification that they’re not yet used to living with.
It’s not just object detection that makes the WeWALK a pioneering piece of technology for the visually impaired. The unit can be linked to a smartphone which allows the user to simply swipe their phone screen to decide what action they want their cane to take. One option is to switch on the voice activated assistant, Alexa.
The integrated assistant will assist users in getting to their required destination by giving out verbal directions. It also works hand in hand with Google Maps to ensure the user completes their desired journey. The battery charge typically lasts 20 hours and is charged via a USB connection, so there’s more than enough battery power to get individuals from A to B and back again.
If there wasn’t already enough technology packed into this nifty gadget, users can expect more, according to the team behind it. They state that with every future software update, new and improved features will emerge. As a result, the $499 gadget is one that seriously stands out from the crowd.
Improving quality of life
One of the most impressive factors about the WeWALK is that it’s a unit that simply attaches to a cane. This, therefore, makes it a cost-effective investment for individuals who already use a white cane. Ceylan believes that even those who aren’t yet using a cane should consider purchasing one as it has the ability to improve their quality of life and enhance their social opportunities.
“Two weeks ago, one of our users contacted us and told us that he had become depressed after going blind a few years ago. But after using the device, he said he is no longer depressed and has been able to go out more — it gave me encouragement,” Ceylan states. With the ability to make home life, travel, shopping, and socialising so much easier, it’s easy to see why people in more than 20 countries have placed an order for a WeWALK since its launch in July 2019.
With so many people living with a visual impairment, it’s a surprise that so few aren’t using a white cane. But all that is about to change thanks to the invention of the innovative WeWALK. Complete with all the latest technology, the WeWALK promises to assist the visually impaired both in and out of the home and ensure that their overall wellbeing is the best that it can be.
Article submitted by Hany Joxon