ASET Technology Alberta Winter 2019 - 26

sual impairments. One of the most severe difficulties faced
by such individuals is safe, independent mobility. The white
cane (or long cane) is the most commonly used mobility
device around the world. It provides tactile feedback to the
blind traveller to aid safe, efficient, and independent travel
in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. In addition to
improving mobility of visually impaired people, the white
cane serves as an identifier that is recognized worldwide.
However, since the invention of the white cane in the 1920's,
there has been little technological innovation to improve
upon the design of the cane and increase the mobility of
visually impaired people.
During the same period, the development and societal integration of smartphones has revolutionized the way that
people communicate, and greatly facilitated our ability to
access information. While most people have benefited extensively from the technological advances brought forth by
the mobile device era, rendering the advantages of smart
devices accessible for the visually impaired community has
faced challenges. Ultimately, despite efforts to design a
better electronic mobility aid, replacing the traditional white
cane with a more functional option has been unsuccessful.
A review of analyses of previous smart cane devices indicated that the available electronic mobility aids do not meet
the needs of the visually impaired.
The three main technology-based features that our smart
cane provides are: Remote smartphone accessibility and
control; advanced detection of obstacles above ground
level and beyond one meter; and, surface water detection.
A multi-mode button interface on the cane handle communicates via Bluetooth to access and control iOS devices
through the native switch control mode of the operating
system. This allows users to access a customizable array
of preprogrammed smart device functions such as turn-byturn GPS walking directions, emergency location services,
and messaging to/from family members/caretakers with
the single press of a button. A Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) optical distance measurement sensor and a liquid level detector collect information about the user's surroundings, and relay signals to the user through a haptic
(vibration) feedback system. These signals alert the user to
the presence/proximity of obstacles and/or surface water.
Advanced obstacle and water detection, when combined
with appropriate and effective feedback, provides extra

26 | WINTER 2019 | TECHNOLOGY ALBERTA

time to prepare to avoid obstacles, thus enabling users to
navigate unfamiliar environments faster and with increased
confidence.
Due to the white cane's status as the most commonly used
assistive device for the visually impaired, and that it is, therefore, considered an indication of ability and a symbol of independence in the visually impaired community, the project
strived to package the technology features into the familiar
form of the white cane. As such, an ergonomic handle was
CAD modeled and 3D printed to house all the required electronics and allow retrofitting to any standard white cane.
This allows the new features to be used in conjunction with
the self-identification and ground level obstacle detection/
feedback capabilities of the standard white cane. Moreover,
because of the similarities between white canes and the VISAIDE technology, white-cane users should not face a significant challenge when switching to our smart device.
Our final product improved upon devices that are currently
being marketed/tested in multiple respects. Based on feedback from the visually impaired community, current smart
cane devices are too heavy (greater than 320 grams), and
have a short battery life (less than 4 hours). The VISAIDE
Smart Cane added a total of 230 grams to the standard
white cane while increasing the battery life to greater than
double that of similar devices. Both the weight reduction
and the increased battery life should allow prolonged use
of the cane relative to other devices, and thus increase the
level of independent mobility of visually impaired users.



ASET Technology Alberta Winter 2019

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ASET Technology Alberta Winter 2019 - Table of Contents
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https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_summer_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_winter_2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_summer_2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_winter_2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_summer_2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_dec2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/aset55anniversary
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_winter_2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_winter_2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_summer_2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_winter_2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_fall_2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_summer_2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/dawson/aset/ta_spring_2015
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com