"While the white cane is reliable enough to warn people of objects on the ground, and even up to knee-height, visually impaired people are often taken by surprise by over-hanging branches, protruding air-conditioners and parked vehicles. The SmartCane detects such obstacles from a safe distance, helping them avoid it, allowing safe, independent and dignified mobility," Professor Rohan Paul, IIT Delhi, who has played a key role in the development of the SmartCane device said here today.
The development of the SmartCane is an example where an academic institution, industry and a non-profit organisation joined hands, supported by an international charity to develop this technology to address challenges faced by the visually impaired, IIT Delhi professor and project Mentor Balakrishnan said.
SmartCane has been developed jointly by the Assistive Technologies Group at IIT Delhi, Phoenix Medical Systems and NGO Saksham Trust, with funding received from the Welcome Trust (UK).
The Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) of St Xavier's College (Mumbai) in association with Saksham Trust and IIT Delhi in conjunction with the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) today distributed SmartCane to 50 students under the ADIP scheme of the Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Bollywood actor and alumnus of St Xaviers' College, Mumbai, Vidya Balan handed over the devices to the students.
"This device will now integrate visually impaired into the mainstream and make them more independent," she said today.
SmartCane device, which costs Rs 3,000, is an electronic mobility aid, fits on the top fold of the white cane serving as an enhancement to the cane and overcomes its limitations by detecting knee above and hanging obstacles.
The cane has other uses as a spatial awareness device as it can detect presence or absence of objects in the surroundings from one meter to three metres. It has in built rechargeable battery back up of 10 hours and easy charging.
SmartCane device uses ultrasonic ranging to detect objects in its path and generates tactile output in the form of different vibratory patterns.
According to the World Health Organisation, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, with 90 per cent residing in developing countries.
India is home for over five million people with blindness (excluding those blind with additional disabilities), the largest for any country in the world, according to 2011 census data.