According to the World Health Organization there are about 250 million visually impaired people in the world and about 20% of them use a white cane to get around.
While a white cane can help people avoid obstacles at ground level they are left unprotected from objects from the chest up.
Smartphone technology has made it easier for visually impaired people to navigate streets and sidewalks, especially in unfamiliar areas, but it’s tough to use a cane in one hand and smartphone in the other.
Kursat Ceylan, a blind Turkish inventor along with engineers from Young Guru Academy, have solved some of the major white cane problems with a new smart cane called WeWALK.
The WeWALK has an ultrasonic sensor that detects obstacles above chest level and warns with a vibrating handle so seeing impaired people can walk with greater safety and confidence.
The high-tech stick connects with Google Maps to inform users about infrastructural details or businesses near them that they may not know about in real-time. The smart cane also allows users to operate their bluetooth-enabled smartphones via a touch pad in the handle, leaving the other hand free.
“As a blind person, when I am at the Metro station I don’t know which is my exit … I don’t know which bus is approaching … [or] which stores are around me. That kind of information can be provided with the WeWalk,” Ceylan told CNN.
The smart cane is engineered so it can incorporate new technologies as they are developed and will soon allow users to connect with Uber, Lyft, and Amazon Alexa.
Studies show that visually-impaired people suffer from severe loneliness than sighted people. Inventions like the WeWALK can hopefully make it easier for these individuals to be more socially active.
Ceylan thinks it’s about time visually-impaired people can get the full benefits of smartphone technology.
“In these days we are talking about flying cars,” Ceylan told CNN, “but [blind] people have been using just a plain stick.”
The WeWALK is available for $500.