New navigation gadget for people who are blind

The most reliable navigation tool for people who are blind, the white cane, is set to be enhanced by a new gadget built by six Curtin University PhD students.

The white cane has been a successful innovation for decades, and by using special multi-sensor array technology, the Indoor Navigation Project will enable people who are blind to sense their  surroundings beyond the cane’s tip.

Project leader Dr Iain Murray of Curtin’s Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering said the gadget would resemble a smartphone and would sense an entire room’s features, build a virtual  map of it and communicate this to the user.

“A cane is beneficial for going up and down stairs or detecting if obstacles are right in front of you, but is not capable of telling you if something is more than a metre or two away,” Dr Murray said.

“What we are developing is a multi-sensor device for people who are blind, who are also often hearing impaired, to tell them what is exactly around them from wall to wall.”

Dr Murray said five students will each take on the development of one type of sensor, whether it be sensing the change of velocity, images or noise. The sixth student will be responsible for pooling the sensors into one gadget, which will ultimately contribute towards building a map of the indoor environment including both moving and non-moving objects.

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