What kind of senses can add to canes?
A white cane is recognized as an international tool and primarily assists with the blind and visually impaired in their mobility. But we found out that even with the obvious signal they hold, their canes often get bumped into by the reckless pedestrians on their phones.
The Smart cane is a physical computing project that my team and I worked with Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired to provide enhanced feedback from the environment.
My roles: I conducted stakeholder interviews with the Director of Visions, blind and visually impaired people. For the smart cane design, I worked on two parts:
blink of an LED and test a vibe motor
Cut the water sensor
Toolkits: Adurino, Water sensor, LEDs, White Cane, Piezo, Spindle Sander Saw, Sketch
Team: Young Jang, Scott Cowell, Ning Xu from IxD SVA.
From research and conversations, we learned how blind people use white canes to navigate the streets. The cane primarily functions as a mobility tool. However, the blind told us that reckless pedestrians often bump into their canes.
How does it work?
The smart cane utilizes sensors and light. A water sensor located in the tip of the cane identifies potentially hazardous conditions (e.g. puddles and slippery floor surfaces). When a detection is made, the user is alerted through a vibration in the handle. LEDs are strategically located at the end of the cane to catch the attention of pedestrians distracted by cellphones. Light output intensifies when the cane is actively in use (tapping). This increases awareness and minimizes the potential for collision.
We received positive feedback from the blind and visually impaired from user testing on the smart cane. In the testing section, they found pedestrians started noticing them more than with normal cane, avoiding pumping into them and their canes, especially at night. In addition, users also appreciated the puddle detection feature, and said they would like the cane to detect deeper puddles on the street. Overall, they felt much more powerful and secure when using the smart cane and are excited about it.