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'Smart cane' to guide visually impaired in hills

Thu, 07/19/2012 - 15:37 -- admin

White canes will soon be passe. Now, visually impaired persons can depend on smart stick to guide them through hills and crowded roads. Fixed with sensors, it will alert the user about the lurking danger via vibrations and also inform about the size, shape and type of obstacles.

Developed by IIT-Delhi with the help of Delhi-based NGO Saksham, the first phase of week-long trials of smart cane for the hills involving six students, including three Class XI girls of local Portmore School, ended here on Friday.

“A smart cane for the blind was already at final stage after the trials done at major cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Dehradun. This smart stick is plain, developed with the help of pharmaceutical company Phoenix Medical Systems. There requirements of the blind in the hills are very different as these places have problems like deep gorge, cliffs, mountainous paths, hair-pin curves, narrow passages and depths. Here, we needed a smart cane addressing all these issues,” said Ajai Srivastava, head of Umang Foundation—a organisation working for the blind.

Yogesh Taneja, a software developer and visually impaired, working on the project said, “Smart cane being designed for the blind will make a seachange in their lives and would help them to navigate mountain roads. If there is a sharp cliff,curve or depth, sensors will send vibrations to the user about the danger.”

Some of the students—three of them from blind school at Dhalli in Shimla and the three girls— sounded excited about the smart cane.

“We get injured while walking as sticks or white cane we use doesn’t alerts us about the objects above knee height. However, the smart cane will start sending vibrations about the object up to 3 metres, thus giving us a response time,” said Bhupesh.

Anisha said they should develop a can that spells out the danger rather than just sending vibrations, as it will be more useful.

In the second phase of trials, the students will it for 15 days and the team will return after a fortnight and get their feedback.

Bhupesh said some of the devices available in foreign countries cost up to Rs 40,000 and are unaffordable.

“The effort of the organisation—Saksham—is to make it affordable. The white cane in India costs between Rs 60 and Rs 200. This stick could be a little higher maybe around Rs 2,000,” he said.

The smart cane will determine the object that is in front of the user and depending on its nature—whether tall or short, and level from the body (head or knee level). There there will be different combinations of long and short vibrations on the handle of the stick.

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