13 October (NWN) — Researchers at Stanford University have given a technological upgrade to the traditional white cane used by the blind to help them better avoid potential obstacles, he said on Wednesday.
Called Augmented Cane, the new device is equipped with multiple sensors and intuitive feedback mechanisms that guide users around indoor and outdoor obstacles and enable them to walk faster, the researchers said in an article published by Science Robotics.
The new cane also includes technology that helps guide users to specific locations pre-programmed into its on-board system.
According to researchers, with additional refinements, the new sugarcane could help more than 250 million people worldwide who have difficulty moving out of their homes due to visual impairment.
The researchers said that increased mobility would improve physical and mental health, as well as improve the economic and social well-being of people with visual impairments.
Researcher Patrick Slade told NWN in an email, “Robotic devices like these could really help improve both navigation and mobility if they are designed in a way that makes people feel comfortable and confident-building.” “
“We’ve built a tool to help navigate a range of situations, [and] Such a generic solution could be beneficial, once it can be improved as a product to be lighter and simpler,” said Slade, a post-doctoral in bioengineering at Stanford University in California.
Studies have shown that visually impaired people face a number of mobility challenges, including decreased walking speed and increased risk of accidental injury.
According to Slade and colleagues, traditional white canes with red bottom sections and guide dogs are commonly used tools to help people with impaired vision stay mobile and independent, but neither are the perfect solution.
Older canes can help users avoid obstacles, but can only locate them within their length, and the availability of guide dogs is limited in large part due to training costs that exceed $40,000, research shows. runs.
Built with open-source technology, the current version of the Enhanced Cane, along with a camera and GPS antenna, has a motorized wheel at its end, which helps the user steer in real time, the researchers said.
In its current form, the cane, which weighs about 2 pounds, costs about $400 to manufacture, but Slade and his colleagues hope to further refine the design to make it more user-friendly.
Slade said they hope to partner with manufacturers to streamline sugarcane development and, ideally, enable it to be connected to a user’s smartphone to expand its ability to respond to needs in real time. Can go
A similar device is in development at Virginia Commonwealth University.
For this study, Slade and his colleagues assessed the walking speed of augmented cane users.
The researchers said walking speed was used as the key measure because it reflects a person’s mobility as well as their ability to efficiently avoid potential obstacles.
Participants in the study included 12 sighted adults who were blindfolded to simulate visual impairment and 12 adults diagnosed with visual impairment with experience using a white cane.
Compared to a conventional white cane, the augmented cane increased the walking speed of visually impaired people by an average of 18%, the data showed.
The researchers said that users of the augmented cane also had fewer collisions with obstacles in their environment and reported higher confidence in their navigation abilities.
“Although our device is relatively low-cost relative to other research tools, it certainly has room for improvement to become a product,” Slade said.
“We open-sourced the design to help researchers and people interested in this problem benefit from the design [and] We are looking forward to streamlining future designs and would love to work with corporate partners to create truly useful products.”