What kind of senses can add to canes?

 

Background:

A white canes 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 Project:  

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 ROLE

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

     

     

    User Research

     
    I want to know everything that is happening around me.
    — Sharon, who is visually impaired
     
     
    People with smartphones often walk towards me because they are busy looking at their phones in the street.
    — Liz, who is a blind person
     
     

    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 it works?

    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.

     
     a. Pizeo & LED Lights  Tapping the ground with the tip of the cane will result in the brightening of the cane’s light.

    a. Pizeo & LED Lights

    Tapping the ground with the tip of the cane will result in the brightening of the cane’s light.

     b. Water Sensor & Vibe Motor & Sound  The water sensor is capable of detecting shallow puddles and will alert users with vibration and sound.

    b. Water Sensor & Vibe Motor & Sound

    The water sensor is capable of detecting shallow puddles and will alert users with vibration and sound.

    Schematic Diagram

     The circuit diagram

    The circuit diagram


     

    Prototyping/Feedback

    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.