Visually impaired get a smart guide

TH-SMART_CANE__2349503fCHENNAI: The risk of colliding into objects and hurting herself has always been an issue, every time T. Jayaseeli, a postgraduate student, steps out.
Her regular white cane doesn’t really help with objects that are above knee-level, says the visually-impaired student. “It’s also hard to know when a moving vehicle is about to cross your path,” she says.
To help with this and minimise chances of injury, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)–Delhi, in association with Phoenix Medical Systems and Saksham Trust, has come up with a solution: a smart cane. It uses ultrasonic ranging to detect objects up to three metres away and generate a vibrating signal the user can feel.
The cane is foldable, ergonomic and uses a detachable device attached to the regular white cane.It can sense objects as narrow as 3 cm and has an in-built rechargeable battery that can last eight hours on full charge.
It also emits a long beep when a fast-moving object crosses the user’s path.However, it requires some simple orientation and training to be used.
It took three years and numerous prototypes before the cane acquired its final form. “Several visually-impaired persons tried it out at various stages and their inputs have made the cane this user-friendly. It has always been a people’s project,” says IIT-Delhi’s Rohan Paul, lead inventor of the device.
The smart cane, launched at IIT-Madras on Saturday, costs Rs. 3,000.“The idea was to make a device that is accessible and affordable. Now, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is distributing the smart cane as part of devices given to the disabled,” says V. Sashi Kumar, managing director, Phoenix Medical Systems.
With 12 million visually-impaired persons in India, the device will be hugely beneficial, says R.V. Ramani, founder and managing trustee, Sankara Eye Care Institutions.
On Saturday, the smart cane was distributed free to 35 visually-impaired persons. Dipendra Manocha of the National Association for the Blind, Bhaskar Ramamoorthi, director of IIT-Madras, and H.R. Mohan of the IIT Alumni Club, took part in the function.

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