The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Gandhinagar is in the process of developing a walking stick called 'Smart Cane' for the blind with the help of the Blind People's Association (BPA). The new cane will be reasonably priced at around Rs.1000 and the battery-operated walking stick will be equipped with an infrared and ultrasound sensors, according to the Times of India.
A group of 24 IIT-G students are developing the walking stick which will vibrate and buzz in various ways to warn the users about the impending obstacle in their way. The stick will inform about the size, shape and type of obstacles that are even 10 feet away.
Explaining the technology being used in the stick, Akshay Jain, team member said, "The ultrasound detects objects at a longer and wider range. However, its preciseness is lower than that of infrared rays that have a short range. So the combination of both helps in detecting an object in advance and estimating its details precisely as it comes closer."
The Smart Cane will determine the object that is in front of the user and depending on its nature; whether it is tall or short, its level from the body (head or knee level) or it is just a simple pothole full of water, there will be different combinations of long and short vibrations on the handle of the stick.
Additionally there will also be different tones of sounds from a buzzer that will follow the vibrations. So if the user is in a noise free zone, he can switch off the vibration mode and simply use the sound mode.
Initially a research was conducted by the students with the help of BPA for better understanding the requirements and needs of the end users. The pricing of the cane at around Rs.1000 is apt since it makes it affordable to a majority of people with the disability. The other hi-tech walking sticks available in the market cost between Rs.15,000 and Rs.1 lakh depending on the quality and features.
Although this is a good initiative, there are still some things to be considered, like the cane can determine the size and shape of the object, but how will it determine the state it is in. for example if there is a small fire ahead or a slippery floor, how will it warn the user about the impending threat.