What is SmartCane ?
Smartcane device is an electronic travel aid which fits as handle of the white cane. As white cane can only detect obstacles up to knee height, Smartcane compliments its functionality by detecting obstacles from knee to head height. It detects obstacles using sonic waves and the presence of obstacles is conveyed through intuitive vibratory patterns. It is powered using rechargeable Li–ion battery like cell phone and can be used in both indoor and outdoor navigation modes. It has been designed to accommodate varying types of user grips which are commonly used by visually challenged.
Smartcane users have found that it is an extremely useful device in detecting different types of obstacles such as tree branches, side of a truck, hanging cloth strings, protruding equipment from walls of an office corridor such as air conditioners, railings, construction equipment and accessories. In other words it helps users to navigate independently without sighted assistance even in unstructured environments. Many users found it extremely useful in avoiding awkward collisions, way finding in narrow pathways and even to detect movements of human beings and animals.
It’s varying intensity tactile feedback helps in pro-active planning of mobility pathways without collisions. Users of smartcane found the device easy to use, ergonomically convenient, easy to train and adapt to. After a few days of use and adaptation, user found that it reduces travel time as compared to use of normal white cane.
Key Device Features
- Ergonomic grip for comfortable holding and cane tapping: Can be held by different gripping styles, allowing users to use their natural cane holding and mobility techniques.
- Adjustable detection range: User can switch between long (3 metre) and short (1.8 metre) range mode depending on the usage scenarios such as outdoor, indoor or crowded places.
- High detection sensitivity: The sensors can detect a 3 centimetre wide pipe from 3 metres distance, ensuring reliable detection of objects in the detection range.
- Four intuitive and distinctive vibration patterns indicating obstacle distance.
- Vibrations are uniformly produced on the entire grip: Non-localized vibration feedback allows user to conveniently grip the device.
- Does not interfere with the auditory environment surrounding the user Vibrations allow discreet continuous use without making the user conscious or creating annoyance to others
- Adjustable sensor orientation: Allows people of different heights and with different cane holding styles to direct the sensors appropriately.
- In-built rechargeable battery with a long battery back-up: Easy charging like a cell phone. Removing of batteries for charging is not required.
- Fully accessible user interface: Simple and distinguishable beeps to convey the battery charge status, low battery warning and charging status.
- Failure detection of key components: Users informed immediately on failure of sensors and/ or vibrator through special alarm signals.
- Detects fast approaching objects in the detection range: Especially helpful in detection of reversing vehicles.
- Easy attachment / detachment from a white cane: Allows for compatible white cane replacement by the user himself.
- Multiple colour options: Available in two non- flashy and elegant colours
- Robust design: Can withstand accidental fall
- Splash proof: Prevents damage during light rain
- Conforms to international quality standards
Who can use ?
Everyone having visual impairment can benefit from the device provided the person should have the motivation and the readiness to learn. Even children with blindness as well as persons with deaf-blindness can learn to use and can improve their mobility. But how effectively a person adopts and benefit from SmartCane is highly dependent on the following:
It is necessary that people are mobile and are capable of holding and tapping their regular white cane. People with no or limited vision up to half a meter or less will benefit the most from the device. In the case of persons with low vision, those who can perceive things beyond the range of 3 meters may not be able to make effective use of the device. Reliability on vision for detection can lead to distraction and confusion on the part of the user while attending to the warning signals from the device. Also, learning will be faster among people who have high tactile sensitivity. As a result, they would be able to respond and distinguish between the vibratory patterns easily.
Independent travelers who heavily use white cane for their mobility are most likely to adopt and use this device. This includes students and professionals who commute long distances walking on foot. Some other important characteristics include satisfactory orientation skills, competence in white cane usage and a willingness to try and learn new technologies for an improved mobility. Acceptance will be less among people who rely on sighted assistance for their mobility and also among people who have restricted movement.
In addition, persons with a negative self-concept or with non-acceptance of their disability and the use of white cane will be less eager to adopt this device. This could be commonly seen among person who are adventitious blind, adolescents having identity confusions and also some women who are highly skeptical of how they are perceived by the society.
The importance of training
SmartCane is a simple device which is very easy to learn and use. With little facilitation a person can very well adopt it as a mobility aid. However to become an expert user, a person needs to undergo a short training. This training is beneficial to understand the functionality of the SmartCane device and learn the correct ways of using it in real life scenarios. Facilitators that include teachers, special educators, mobility instructors, families and friends can play a role in supporting a user to obtain training. In addition, regular practice in using the device in known as well as unknown environments will help the person to gain confidence in avoiding knee above obstacles and to move around with grace. The self-learning manual of the device gives an insight to the SmartCane and its use. Further, a Trainers’ Handbook is also available for facilitators to assist the user in learning the use of the SmartCane.