Visually impaired (blind) individuals rely on simple walking sticks for navigating around obstacles encountered in their daily travels. Advanced electronic walking sticks further provide early warning of obstacles detected by sensors, and vibrating of the stick handle. However, the walking stick is only useful if the individual already knows the way to the destination. To provide visually impaired individuals the freedom to explore new routes or travel independently, we designed the Guidance Stick (GS) which integrates GPS system, proximity sensors (sonar), tactile (vibration) feedback, voice interface, and a mobile communication module.
The Guidance-Stick (GS) is made of lightweight hard plastic, with adjustable height, and is attached to a wheeled-base with proximity sensors. The sensors detect obstacles within an adjustable radius of up to 1 meter forward, and 2 meters upwards.
The stick handle has a switch to toggle between 4 modes:
1. Walking mode: sensors and tactile feedback are activated, and the route travelled is recorded by the GPS system for future use.
2. Traveling mode: sensors, tactile feedback and voice interface are activated. The user speaks the destination address, (or a previous route stored during the Walking mode), and the wheeled-base then leads the user along the sidewalk using precise GPS positioning (like a guide dog) to the intended destination. The user is also warned through tactile and voice feedback when approaching traffic intersections.
3 & 4. Taxi mode & Emergency mode: a pre-programed number of a Taxi company (or an emergency number) is dialled and the GPS location is sent.
Our Competitive Advantage:
1. Easy to use (four modes)
2. Provides users the freedom to travel on their own to mapped destinations
3. Prevents accidents such as running into low hanging tree branches or open doors (sensors)
5. Tactile and voice interface (vibration feedback, voice input and audio output)
6. Built in mobile communication module (Taxi and Emergency modes)
Our innovative technology consists of 3 facets.
1. The wheeled-base has 3 wheels for free movement (Walking mode) and guiding purpose (Travel mode)
2. The handle has a switch to toggle between the 4 modes, has tactile feedback for warning the user of obstacles (Walking mode) and also of traffic intersections (Travel mode)
3. The sensors at the base detect objects horizontally, and vertically, providing full protection against unexpected obstacles such as low hanging tree branches, road signs etc
Our Path to Market:
We understand that visually impaired individuals desired to function as independent members of the society, and providing them with a tool to freely travel on their own without the need to rely on others enhances this aspect of their life.
With current pricing of materials and electronic parts, the GS can be produced at an affordable price of under USD400 (well below the price of a basic electronic stick of USD1000), with future added options of a braille display and Bluetooth module for interfacing with Bluetooth microphone and earphones.