Using innovative technology, engineering students at Central Michigan University have designed a device that provides navigation cues for the blind.
The device, called The Smart Cane, detects obstacles and provides navigation cues by using Radio Frequency Identification technology - similar to what some major retailers use to tag merchandise to prevent theft.
"We are one of the first to research the use of RFID technology outdoors. We're very excited about what this project will lead to," said Kumar Yelamarthi, a CMU assistant professor of engineering and project leader.
The Smart Cane, which has an ultrasonic sensor mounted on it, is paired with a messenger-style bag that is worn across the shoulder.
A miniature navigational system inside the bag and the Smart Cane work together to detect RFID tags located on mini flags sticking out of the ground.
A speaker located on the bag strap voices alerts when an obstacle is detected, and also informs the user which direction to move.
For those who are visually impaired and cannot hear, the students created a glove that uses sensors to vibrate different fingertips providing an alert or direction.
The students recently set up flags on CMU's campus and tested the system with volunteers who found it to be effective, especially with navigation.
Their recommendations along with data collected by the student team will be passed along to future student design teams with the goal that a fully functional system can be developed and implemented at CMU.