Nov, 2021 - By WMR
Researchers built $400 robotic cane that guides people with visual impairments efficiently and safely through their environment.
The traditional white cane introduced in 1930s is a simple but important tool for visually impaired people that helps them to get around independently. A team of researchers at Stanford University developed a new affordable robotic cane with artificial intelligence that makes getting around easier and faster for people with visual impairment by identifying and detecting obstacles. The team developed the cane by using tools from self-driving vehicles.
There are many technologically developed canes available that use sensors. However, these canes are heavier weighing up to 50 pound and cost around $6,000. These sensor canes can detect only those objects that are right in front of the user, limiting their efficiency. The newly developed augmented cane comes with cutting-edge sensors, and a lot more reduced weight. The augmented cane is integrated with LiDAR sensors, which are used in autonomous cars and airplanes that detect the distance to a potential obstacle. The weight of this new cane is only 3 pounds. It comes with GPS, magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope that helps tracking position, speed and direction of a user. The augmented cane also comes with omnidirectional and motorized wheels at its tip that makes it easier to navigate around hurdles such as traffic cones or scooters. The cane nudges the user gently in right and left around these obstacles.
The scientists tested the cane with visually impaired people and sighted people wearing blindfolds by asking them to complete their regular navigation challenges which included avoiding obstacles, walking hallways and crossing outdoor barriers. As results, the walking speed of visually impaired people was increased by around 20% compared to the regular white cane. Whereas the walking speed of sighted people with blindfold was increased by more than one third. As the new augmented cane is still a research prototype, it needs much more work to make it ready for everyday use.