A team affiliated with Israel’s Hebrew University, has developed a new device that would allow the blind and visually impaired to navigate their way by the use of “virtual canes”. The device makes use of sonar-like technology (much like how bats use sonar to “see”) to detect objects within 10 meters, which would allow the blind or visually impaired to make their way about safely.
The handheld unit will emit an invisible focused beam in the direction that the user chooses, and other sensors will then detect the distance and height of all objects near the user. The information is then communicated back to user via a series of intuitive vibrations to create an impromptu spatial picture. The “cane” also varies the strength and frequency of the vibrations, depending on how near or far the user is from the object, so light vibrations could mean that the user is still quite a distance away from the object, while strong vibrations could mean that the user is getting very close to the object.
The learning curve for the device is apparently not very steep and would only require a few minutes to be learnt. As it stands the device works well enough for users who have been testing it by navigating a maze in the dark.