A smart cane for blind people which helps identify friends and family immediately could soon be commercially available, after a group of university students developed the idea.
The ‘XploR’ mobility cane, created by students from Birmingham City University, uses smartphone technology to recognize familiar faces from up to 10m away. The cane is also equipped with GPS functionality to help the owner navigate from A to B.
Steve Adigbo, one of the students, said: “My grandfather is blind and I know how useful this device could be for him. The smart cane incorporates facial recognition technology to alert the user when they are approaching a relative or friend. There’s nothing else out there like this at the moment.”
The cane is designed to vibrate when it detects recognisable faces from a bank of images stored on an internal SD memory card. It will guide users in the right direction though an earpiece and audio messages, with the information being relayed via Bluetooth technology.
The students conducted market research at the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, to determine key features that the visually impaired would find useful in a mobility cane.
“We found that high-spec technology features were essential requirements for users, as well as the cane needing to be fairly lightweight and easy to use,” said Waheed Rafiq.
“We’ll be returning to the Beacon Centre later this year for people to test the product and also to highlight the training and security features of the cane.”
The ‘smart’ cane was well received by medical and science professionals in Luxembourg and France and could soon be commercialised as a consumer product.