For a blind person, life is full of obstacles — both literally and metaphorically. Certainly, some of the most challenging are the obstacles right in front of their eyes that make life difficult to navigate, even with a cane.
The litter on the sidewalk. The tree branch sticking out at knee height. The low counter top at a local diner. To someone with full sight, these nuisances do not warrant a second thought. But for a blind person, all of these situations represent potential hazards.
A white cane is helpful when moving about, but it may not detect hazards that stick out at waist height or those that aren't touching the ground. But creators of a new cane — a smartcane — hopes to address these concerns by utilizing a technique straight out of the nature books, echolocation.
The new smartcane has a built-in device that sends out ultrasound signals to detect objects in its path. It then uses vibrations to inform the cane holder of potential obstacles. It detects not only objects that are on the ground, but also those that fall between waist and knee height, those that are often missed by the traditional white cane.
The goal of this new smartcane — dubbed the Ultra Cane — is to provide independence for those living with blindness. Instead of simply avoiding obstacles, it helps them more confidently navigate their way through city streets and even their own homes.
You can check out a company demo video for the Ultra Cane here:
Or for even more in-depth info about how the Ultra Cane mimics the echolocation used by bats, check out this BBC video (which also includes a peek at the Ultra Bike, a device made by the same company that allows blind cyclists to enjoy riding again.)