Bats inspire smart cane for the Blind
Today, people who are blind or visually impaired rely on walking canes and seeing-eye pets to help them navigate the world. But two new technologies have paved a way for them to claim back their independence: smart canes borrowing the bat’s echolocation technique.
‘Ultra Cane’ from Britain and ‘Smartcane’ from India use echolocation to help the blind walk normally and avoid more obstacles. Both were inspired by the bat’s natural skill to navigate pitch black environments using ultrasound waves. The makers of Ultra Cane applied the technology a notch higher by creating Ultra Bikes.
Echolocation in bats and in modern technology
Ultra Cane and Smartcane work by sending and receiving ultrasound waves. Waves that hit any object in front of the canes bounce back, alerting the user through vibrations on the handle. The closer the user is to the obstacle, the faster the vibrations.
What makes these two canes different from ordinary walking canes is that the ultrasound waves can detect objects that are above the knee — objects that ordinary walking canes may not detect very accurately and on time.
Ultra Cane has been in the market since 2011 and costs around €735. However, Smartcane only costs around €36, making it more accessible to India’s most disadvantaged people. According to Indian Institute of Technology professor and lead engineer Meenakshi Balakrishnan, Smartcane was specifically made for low-cost economies.