Monday, October 25, 2021

Researchers Create Smart Cane for the Blind That Can Increase Walking Speed By 18%

White canes help many visually impaired people to move around without relying so much on third parties. However, technology could make this independence even more real when applied to these objects.

Researchers at Stanford University (California) have used technology used for autonomous vehicles to develop an intelligent automatic navigation cane. This device is able to identify if there are obstacles around the person carrying it and move it safely away.

In testing the effectiveness of the device, the Stanford team demonstrated that it enabled blind people to increase their speed by 18%.

We wanted something easier to use than just a white cane with sensors," said Stanford mechanical engineer Patrick Slade. Something that not only tells you there's an object in your path but tells you what that object is and then helps you get around it."

The device uses LIDAR technology, which employs reflective lasers to tell it how far away objects are. On the other hand, it also has sensors common in cell phones to track the user's position, speed and direction of travel.

In addition, the cane uses a variety of artificial intelligence algorithms. These include simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). Through these, the device is able to develop a map of an unknown area and track the user within it.

At the tip of the cane, the team has placed an omnidirectional motorized wheel. With it, they intend to be able to send visually impaired people in a certain direction.

"We want humans to be in control, but provide them with the right level of gentle guidance to get them where they want to go as safely and efficiently as possible," said Mykel Kochenderfer, a Stanford computer scientist.

The smart cane in this study would be very useful for the approximately 250 million visually impaired people in the world today. Through this technology, it would improve the quality of life of these individuals considerably.

To date, white canes with integrated technology have been very heavy and expensive. However, Stanford's design is considerably lighter and they have made it available to everyone through open source.

To develop it, all it takes is one person with the necessary knowledge and materials. Despite this, it should be noted that the materials needed cost about $400.

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