Students at Birmingham City University are working on a smart cane dubbed ‘XploR’ that not only fulfills its primary purpose for the blind, but also lets its user know when his / her friends and family members are around.
The smart mobility cane is being developed by three ICT students Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett. The trio has employed smartphone technology for face recognition and based on initial trails, the cane can recognise familiar faces from up to 10 metres away. Further, they have also incorporated GPS into the cane thereby aiding in navigation.
According to the creators, the cane will vibrate when it detects a recognisable individual from a bank of images stored on an internal SD memory card. XploR will then guide its user towards friends and family members using an ear piece and audio guidance, with the information being relayed through bluetooth technology.
The device has added importance for one of its developers, Steve Adigbo, whose grandfather is blind. Steve said: “My grandfather is blind and I know how useful this device could be for him. The smart cane incorporates facial recognition technology to alert the user when they are approaching a relative or friend. There’s nothing else out there like this at the moment.”
The team has already presented their XploR mobility cane to medical and science professionals in Luxembourg and France, and plan to visit organisations in Germany later this year.
Waheed Rafiq says “Medical and healthcare companies in France really liked the product. Hopefully it’ll be making a real difference to people’s lives soon.”
The students conducted market research at the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, to determine key features that the visually impaired would find useful in a mobility cane.
“We found that high-spec technology features were essential requirements for users, as well as the cane needing to be fairly lightweight and easy to use,” said Waheed.
“We’ll be returning to the Beacon Centre later this year for people to test the product and also to highlight the training and security features of the cane.”
The student project forms part of LILA, a European initiative encouraging entrepreneurship and fostering internationalisation.