London based startup WeWalk has created a ‘smart’ cane that uses ultrasound waves to warn users of obstacles above ground level.
The WeWalk module replaces the standard rubber handle attached to canes. WeWALK can detect obstructions that the bottom of standard white cane would often miss such as low tree branches or a sign, and will send a vibration to the user. The cane continues to work with objects on the ground as usual. The cane links to an app with GPS navigation and can use a speaker to tell the user where they are - for example which shop they are passing. It can help with navigation by giving precise directions - turn 4 O’Clock, rather than turn right, and can even help users book a taxi.
WeWalk’s head of research and development, Jean Marc Feghali hopes that this cool device can make the cane something visually impaired people world wide can be proud to be seen with. However its $600 cost and the need to have a smartphone to use the free app will put it out of reach of many of the millions of visually impaired people worldwide, so WeWalk are working with charities and governments to help users afford their smart cane.
WeWalk has 20 employees, several of which are visually impared. Crowdfunding secured their initial investment and they have now joined Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program. They hope to use Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to analyse data on the the way users move that can be collected by the cane.
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