Cities are difficult to navigate at the best of times, but for people who are visually impaired, they can be like an obstacle course and a maze wrapped into one.
A UK national travel survey found that adults with mobility difficulties took 39% fewer trips than those with no disability in 2017.
Now, a new smart cane is set to change that by revolutionising the way that blind people can navigate the world.
In order to guide its user around both low-hanging objects and obstacles above chest level, the WeWALK smart cane uses ultrasonic sensors to warn of nearby impediments through vibrations in the handle.
The cane, designed by engineers from Young Guru Academy (YGA) in Turkey, can also be paired with the WeWALK smartphone app (via Bluetooth). Using the touchpad controls on the smart cane, the user can then control their smartphone without taking it out of their pocket (leaving one hand free for other tasks).
Native integration with Voice Assistant and Google Maps software enables the cane to use its built-in speakers to inform the user of nearby stores and infrastructural details that they may not be able to see—this is one high tech stick.
WeWALK CEO and co-founder Kursat Ceylan, who is also blind, told CNN that he helped to develop the cane out of a desire to use modern technology as a tool for the visually impaired.
“In these days we are talking about flying cars, but these people have been using just a plain stick,” he said.
“As a blind person, when I am at the Metro station I don’t know which is my exit…I don’t know which bus is approaching…[or] which stores are around me. That kind of information can be provided with the WeWALK.”
The new device is currently being sold for $500. As the Turkish tech startup gains more traction, the developers hope to eventually pair it with ridesharing apps and transportation services to further improve its navigational abilities.
Featured image: WeWALK