Virtual Cane helps the visually impaired to get around


Remember Daredevil from the comics? Well, he is one superhero who might be blind, but due to a freak accident, has gained superhuman sonar abilities that allows him to combat crime whenever he clocks out of the office as a lawyer. Yes sir, being sensitive as a bat certainly does have its benefits in impressing the ladies, but he can’t tell the difference physically between Megan Fox and a plain Jane if both are placed before him in broad daylight. Still, there is much more to life than wine, women and song, right?

Enter the Virtual Cane from Hebrew University, where it is already very close to being commercialized. The Virtual Cane is actually a handheld device which relies on a type of sonar that makes it capable of recognizing physical objects within a 10 m (39 ft) radius. This is made possible as the Virtual Cane emits invisible focused beams towards objects that it is pointed at, where it will then determine just how far away they are. For the user to receive feedback, such information will be relayed via a series of vibrations by “playing” on the intensity levels.

Dr. Amid Amedi from HU’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) is the main man behind the whole Virtual Cane team, and when produced, it will do its job of helping a blind person assess the arrangement of surrounding physical objects. The future might see additions such as facial recognition capability, helping it tell the difference between a smile and a sad face.

Does the advent of the Virtual Cane signal the end of the classic white can? We don’t think so, since you ought to have a backup on hand all the time, not to mention the virtual cane being unsuitable for whole day use with a 12-hour battery life. Initial impressions of the cane have been nothing short of positive, and early estimates point towards a $100 price tag should it finally be realized.


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