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Taking the works of Smart Cane further, these two students of CS dept., Saurabh Runwal and Harween Kaur are building the next generation Electronic Travel Aid (ETA) which is said to overcome the shortcomings of the Smart Cane.

Motivation and Objective

One of the major challenges faced by the visually impaired is that of independent mobility. Till now, the most popular navigation tool among the visually impaired has been the White Cane, which can only detect knee-below obstacles within a very short range. As a first step to overcome these shortcomings, the Smart Cane was developed at Assistech. This low-cost Electronic Travel Aid is based on the simple principle of ultrasonic detection and uses vibratory patterns to convey the distance of the obstacle to the user. This seemingly simple device has received very positive reviews by users and has opened new possibilities for independent navigation.

In this project, we are looking at developing the next generation of this device. The current device is successfully able to warn the user about an imminent obstacle and the user can then take appropriate steps to avoid it. However, it would be much easier for him/her to decide how to tackle the obstacle if they knew something more about what the obstacle is like – such as its size, shape or extent. The next generation Smart Cane would then not only be an aid for navigation, but an aid that would equip the users with much more awareness about their environment.

For developing the concept device, the Microsoft Kinect, a consumer level sensor which is capable of providing real-time depth information would be used. In our concept device, the ultrasonic sensor provides the preliminary detection of an obstacle. After this, the user may exercise a choice to know more about the object, by means of a switch on the device. When more information is desired, the Depth sensor of the Kinect would be used to extract the additional information about the detected obstacle. Finally, this information would be conveyed to the user via an audio output.