The Times of India ||
CHENNAI: Think the possibility if a visually impaired person walking around a mall or a large complex without an escort is a dream? Three students from a private engineering college near Avadi have come up with an electronic walking stick they say can make this possible. The three final year ECE students of S A Engineering College say the e-cane is more cost effective than other ‘smart canes’ in the market. One of the team members, Andrew John, said their objective was to design a smart e-cane which would be able to detect obstacles above knee level and more importantly, help navigate around large buildings with the help of RFID (radio frequency identification system). Other smart canes use smartphones and apps which may not be affordable to all sections of society. Besides, GPS can also have technical issues at times. RFID technology is much more affordable and accurate and is coupled with Braille blocks,” he said. The cane has a microcontroller and RFID reader at the bottom that can scan the strip of RFID cards on the floor and help the user navigate. The menu, left, right and OK buttons are designed like in a joystick. The destinations in a building are to be keyed in the menu to select.
The e-cane also has an obstacle detection unit, a voice-controller unit and a sensory feedback unit. “A speaker built into the cane will guide users through voice command to go straight or turn wherever required. The cane also vibrates if it senses an obstacle on the path through ultrasonic sensors. The vibration is stronger as the user approaches and gives a beep if the user is very close to it, alerting the users to head another way,” said the students. For the cane to be successfully used in public places, the government and building owners must co-operate, they say. The team has applied for government funding for the project and is awaiting a response. IIT Kanpur Board of Directors chairman M Anandakrishnan said, “I don’t think there should be a problem in using RFID in malls or large complexes. A place where it could be an issue would be 3-tier or 4-tier narrow markets like vegetable markets.” The veteran educationist said no innovation was complete until used by the target consumers and closely monitored to ensure its practicality.- Courtesy