God has gifted us with the boon of five senses. Each of these senses helps us in living a normal life. Impairment of any of these senses can lead to great difficulties in life. Leading a life with any of these senses in an abnormal situation transforms the life of a person completely. Losing of vision brings complexities in life. Moving and travelling from one place to another can bring abnormalities in the life of a person. Visual impaired people have different set of schools, colleges, learning institutions, etc… They are always dependent on visually strong people. But now they need not face any dependency while travelling or living a life on their own terms.
A visual supporting device called “Smartcane” is about to be launched for visually impaired people. “Smartcane is a device that will guide and aid visually impaired people in easily moving from one place to another; irrespective of being the busiest streets as well. This is indeed possible because the device uses ultrasound. Smartcane has been developed by Meenakshi Balakrishnan and her team who is a professor and computer engineer at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. In an interview with CNN she said, “On the streets the sidewalks are cluttered with street vendors, animals, streetlights and other obstacles which make them uncomfortable even for sighted people.” The device utilizes Ultrasound by developing the widely utilized and popular white cane.
Meenakshi Balakrishnan leads Smart Cane Team. She also said CNN, “A white cane is an excellent device, providing a lot of information to users. But it is poor at detecting obstacles that are above waist height and do not have a touch-point on the ground, such as a tree branches sticking out into your path.”
A device is attached with the default white cane. The device Smartcane through the device attached with white can emits ultrasound waves. These waves travel ahead to detect any obstacles in their path. With the help of vibrations, these waves inform the user about the possibility of any obstacle or not in the way further. This device is far more superior to the regular white cane. It can sense obstacles at a 45 degree span over the knees area. These vibrations succeed in identifying the side of obstacle that is coming towards the user. Accordingly it indicates the user to change direction in such a situation. These vibrations send back different intensities and patterns that stand for different codes.
By creating this technology at such a low cost of INR 3000 (50 dollars), the Smartcane team has indeed created independence to an estimation of 15 million visually impaired people in India.
Balakrishnan also stated CNN, “We are targeting low-cost economies, starting with India. In high-income countries, footpaths are wider and fairly safe with few obstacles, but in India there are many obstructions meaning people who are visually impaired are reluctant to leave their homes. There are 5 million people estimated to be blind who are of productive age and need independent mobility to work or go to school and be part of the mainstream. We are working through schools, hospitals and local NGOs, who are the groups with access to the people we need to reach.”