UltraCane uses ultrasonic echoes to offer spatial awareness to the vision-impaired
By Mike Hanlon
March 8, 2005
March 9, 2005 The Ultracane is a new electronic mobility aid that might look like the old white cane for visually-impaired people but adds a remarkable array of technology to enable the person to see objects around them. It works exactly the same way that bats "see" using ultrasonic echoes to provide users with the ability to "feel" objects in their environment through the cane's vibrations. The UKP399 Ultracane is getting rave reviews from all those who try it.
Like the bat, the Ultracane uses ultrasonic echoes (signals that bounce off objects in the vicinity) to detect how big and how far ahead obstacles are and converts this information into vibrating buttons in its handle. As there are a number of sensors, the can can even detect obstructions at head height.
This means that the UltraCane user builds a growing spatial map of their surroundings and all the trials and user feedback suggests that this spatial awareness doesn't even require conscious effort on behalf of the user - it just happens. The additional feelings of safety and confidence reported by users is no doubt because blind and vision-impaired people have been used extensively in developing the UltraCane.
As a result, the UltraCane has a range of settings, with the user able to set sensors to detect objects at differing distances in front of them, depending on their needs.
At UKP399, the UltraCane is available for delivery 10 working days from an order being placed. Retailers can be found through developers Sound Foresight was set up in 1998 by researchers at the University of Leeds, to develop the UltraCane for vision impaired people. A great deal more development has gone into the product since then, with feedback from vision impaired testers at every stage, and now the UltraCane is ready for sale.
At UKP399, the UltraCane is available for delivery 10 working days from an order being placed. Retailers can be found through developers Sound Foresight.