This GPS-friendly, facial recognition walking cane is so clever

13 May 2015

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A bunch of UK students have just created a wonderful prototype for a modern, smart-enabled walking cane for visually-impaired people.

Called the ‘XploR’ mobility cane, it will essentially enable blind users to instantly identify friends and loved ones standing up to 10 metres away.

Even cooler, and ever more obvious, it has inbuilt GPS functionality to help with direction. Now it’s probably fairly difficult, even with today’s GPS standards, to help people navigate at a minute level, but in general it’s such a clever idea.

The trio behind the creation – ICT students Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett of Birmingham University – designed the cane to vibrate when detecting a recognisable individual from a bank of images stored on an internal SD memory card.

By using an earpiece the cane can guide users towards people they know, using bluetooth to link the audio with the facial recognition.

It’s essentially yet another strand of the internet of things (IoT) phenomenon we are not quite in yet, but hovering ever closer to.

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.”

Blind man  image via Shutterstock

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com