Ultrasonic Shoe Sensors Help the Visually Impaired

We've all seen those white canes that some people with visual impairments use. They click them on things and listen to, as well as feel, their environment. Denver Dias, as part of his undergraduate studies, set out to create a new interface to help with environmental awareness for those who cannot see.

His concept was to move the obstacle detection out of the hands of the person. He is accomplishing this by mounting an array of ultrasonic sensors around some tennis shoes. The concept behind this prototype is that any obstacle will be detected, and a physical notice will be given to the wearer in real-time.

For the physical feedback, Denver has made some vibrating boxes that you put in your pockets. An Arduino polls the ultrasonic sensors and provides feedback via the boxes. This completely frees up the user's hands for other tasks.

While the prototype has a ways to go, such as weatherproofing and detection of obstacles that are placed higher vertically than the sensors can detect, this is an interesting concept that might bear further research. Imagine if these were fully integrated into the shoe and at least served to provide one more sense to the wearer.

This blog originally appeared on EDN.

6 comments on “Ultrasonic Shoe Sensors Help the Visually Impaired

  1. _hm
    October 25, 2013

    This looks excellent idea. Lot many engineer should work on this idea to develop it further for its effective use.

  2. Nemos
    October 27, 2013

    “but needs lot more development”  Although the prototype picture is not so attractive and gives the impression a lot of things must be done, until we have the first ready to use shoe from the other hand I don't think there is not too many work until the final stage.

  3. Nemos
    October 27, 2013

    I am very glad when I read this kind of blog post as this one for two reasons. The first is because we give hope to people that are facing “difficulties” in every day life (visually Impaired) and second because we see how the open source community contributes to that.

  4. SunitaT
    October 27, 2013

    Ultrasonic shoes are what the blind people will need. The concept is interesting and if it generates enough buzz then this will soon turn into a reality. However a question must be asked concerning these physical signals sent to the user. How fast will these vibrations be sent? Moreover, how will these vibration signals be designed, so as to tell the user which direction to move? And also, blind people used to a cane have no problem in crossing a basic obstacle course set on a straight road. They face most of the problems while crossing the road. Will care be taken so as to enable them to cross roads? Moreover, how will they know when a road bends?

  5. Houngbo_Hospice
    October 28, 2013

    Interesting technology, but the design needs to be improved. The sensors need to be less visible. 

  6. Himanshugupta
    October 29, 2013

    @Hospice, i agree. Given today's technology the design should have been much better and more advanced. I donot know what is the response time of the shoes but i think today we can easily have technology that can be more responsive than the human response.

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