We all know that a white cane is a walking tool used by blind people across the world. The world has seen smart canes introduced for guiding people but comes at a high cost. The blind people can now heave a sigh with smart canes coming at a cost less than 400 dollars, thanks to the introduction of a robotic cane by a group of researchers at the Stanford University.
This white cane can now guide efficiently a blind man through his or her environment, detect and identify obstacles, move easily around those objects, and follow routes both indoors and out.
The augmented cane now available in the market costs as much as 6000 dollars and weighs not less than 50 pounds. Moreover, these heavy and high priced canes are technologically limited. They only detect objects right in front of the user.
The new white cane introduced by the Stanford researchers weight only three pounds and costs about 400 dollars. Introducing the cane, the researchers believe that it would help more than 250 million people with impaired vision worldwide.
On the new cane, Patrick Slade, a graduate research assistant in the Stanford Intelligent Systems Laboratory and first author said, “we wanted something more user-friendly than just a white cane with sensors.” The researcher said that they wanted a cane that cannot only tell a person where an object in the way is but also tell what that object is and then help navigate around it.
Autonomous Vehicle Technology
The cane is equipped with a LIDAR sensor, a sensor used in self-driving cars and aircraft that measures the distance to nearby obstacles. The cane has additional sensors including GPS, accelerometers, magnetometers and gyroscopes like those on a smartphone. This monitors the user’s position, speed and direction. Artificial Intelligence is used for way finding and robotics algorithms like simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and visual serving for steering the user toward an object in an image.
Mounted at the tip of the cane is the pièce de résistance — a motorized, omni directional wheel that maintains contact with the ground. This wheel leads the user with impaired vision by gently tugging and nudging, left and right, around impediments. Equipped with built-in GPS and mapping capabilities, the augmented cane can even guide its user to precise locations — like a favorite store in the mall or a local coffee shop.