Thursday, 31 May 2018 11:11

Lead kindly light: device helps blind cross roads safely

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Dr Alastair Stott and Chen Zhu, IoT director at ThoughtWorks China, examine the SensaCane. Dr Alastair Stott and Chen Zhu, IoT director at ThoughtWorks China, examine the SensaCane. Supplied

Global software consultancy ThoughtWorks and Guide Dogs Victoria have collaborated to build a cane to help blind people cross roads without the assistance of a guide dog.

Called SensaCane, the "smart cane" has optical infra-red sensors in its tip to detect the white lines on the road. When it does so, it offers feedback to the user through vibrations.

This makes it possible for those with low vision or those who are blind to cross without fear of going off track.

“There are around 200,000 Victorians with low vision or blindness, and our aim is to find new ways to improve their lives, whatever their age or the cause of their vision loss, " said Dr Alastair Stott, general manager, Client and Guide Dog Services at Guide Dogs Victoria.

"While Guide Dog services represent 30% of what we do, digital innovation has a big role to play in constantly improving our offering to clients.”

He said: "Enabling people with low vision or blindness to do something as simple as identifying a white line on a road crossing has massive implications for their quality of life – so we’ve partnered with ThoughtWorks to develop a digital solution that will help them do just that.”

“Working with GDV’s clients from the very beginning has meant we could leverage our Internet of Things capabilities and experience to create a new and simple solution that will make a real difference in their lives," said Dave Colls, data practice leader at ThoughtWorks Australia.

"The SensaCane has been road tested by clients and we’re now fine-tuning to ensure it’s production-ready,”

GDV is looking for donors to support commercial production of the SensaCane prototype and aims to have SensaCane devices available for its clients in the near future.

Photo and video: courtesy ThoughtWorks and Guide Dogs Victoria

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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