SmartCane: The Blind Man’s Stick
Post By Sakshi Wagh on 08-June-2015
Companies from various countries have tried in the past to develop a solution for the mobility of the visually impaired, but they have somehow always managed to produce devices that are super-expensive and complicated. That was until a team from India decided to try their hands at it.
When a third of the world’s visually impaired reside in India, it made perfect sense for IIT Delhi and the Saksham team to design and test an affordable device to help such people. Funded by Wellcome Trust, the UK, and manufactured by Phoenix Medical Systems, Smartcane comes with a package of features and still manages to retail at an affordable price.
Back when members of the design team were undergraduates, they attended a design oriented course in embedded-system design. The visited National Association for the Blind at R.K. Puram, Delhi. They realized there that the condition is such that independent mobility has become a challenge, due to which a blind person cannot go out to work or get education.
With this in mind, the design team started working towards the Smart Cane. They figured that they needed to develop something that could fit into the white cane, yet be kept as a detachable device. The second thing they considered that sensors could detect objects/movements from the knee to the head. Once these issues were taken care of, the next challenge was identifying the best way to let the user understand the information that sensors picked up. The team decided to go for tactile feedback in the form of vibration patterns, while also keeping in mind the many variations like different heights, different ways of holding the sticks and daily situations. The ensured that hardware and electromechanical design was done in such a way that it reduced power consumption. The cost-sensitivity, robustness and manufacturing issues of the device were taken care of by the Phoenix Medical Systems.
The first set of design and development activity for SmartCane started in 2005 at IIT Delhi and after conceptualization, thorough testing and trials, device was certified and released in 2014.
Well-suited to and well-thought for Indians, the device is priced merely at Rs. 3000. It is currently thinking of modifying its design to make it user-friendly for children too. They are working on ways to help people with multiple disabilities using the cane.