"Virtual" Cane for the Blind...

Visually impaired people have developed a great number of very effective techniques to replace the sense of vision in everyday life, but there's still certainly room for improvement. The best-known tool is probably the cane with which they scan the area around them for obstacles, walls, changes in floor, and so on - and designer Jin Woo Han may just have one-upped it. He's conceptualized a virtual wand, which senses objects in the direction it's pointed and indicates the distance to the user by different levels of vibration. I'm no expert on the techniques used by the blind with their wands, so it's possible that there's some reason why this just won't work - but to this layperson, it seems like more information (distance) from a more compact and convenient tool. Very nice!
[via OhGizmo and Engadget]

2 comments:

Leanna Gingras said...

It has the advantage of providing better proximal cues, but (and this is pure speculation on this part) I wonder if blind people use the feel of the things they tap to get information. That is, hitting a metal object gives very different physical feedback than hitting a brick object. I'd be interested in how a blind person would perceive this tradeoff.

Dave Gustafson said...

Leanna, thanks for the comment, and you make a very good point - I expect (though like you, all I can do is speculate about this stuff) that the blind get information about the material of the object, how far away it is (like you can tell when you hit the "sweet spot" on a tennis racket), and all sorts of stuff from a physical cane. I guess that just shows the importance of testing any given product with real intended users!