The visually impaired have been using the same tool for ages: the walking stick. But recently, this tried-and-true device received a much-needed overhaul. Engineers in Turkey have developed an attachable smart device, called WeWalk, that uses ultrasound and vibrations to warn walking stick users of obstacles above chest level. It can be paired with a smartphone to further help with navigation and is integrated with a voice assistant and Google Maps.1
WeWalk, which can screw onto any cane, also contains an accelerometer, gyroscope, speakers and compass, allowing the visually impaired more independence than ever before.1 Jean Marc Feghali, a PhD researcher at Imperial College London and advisor to WeWalk, who also has Leber’s congenital amaurosis, speaks highly of the device. He explains that users can access its features using the buttons, touchpad or by turning the cane or striking the end on the ground. Audio navigation cues help guide him to destinations, it reads bus timetables aloud and the device can activate a homing beacon on his phone if he’s misplaced it.2 “It’s positioning itself to be an all-in-one, perfect companion for those with a visual impairment,” Feghali said in a statement.2
WeWalk says new features will integrate with transportation applications and ride share applications.1
1. WeWalk. WeWalk smart cane. wewalk.io/product/wewalk-smart-cane. Accessed September 10, 2019.
2. Trotman A. Access granted: helping people with disabilities explore the places they love. Microsoft News Centre UK. news.microsoft.com/en-gb/features/access-granted-helping-people-with-disabilities-explore-their-places-they-love. June 4, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019.