A smart walking cane equipped with facial recognition technology could allow blind people to identify approaching friends and family members.
The XploR mobility cane, being developed by students at Birmingham City University using smartphone technology, is capable of recognising faces up to 10m away.
When the cane detects a recognisable face from the bank of stored images on its internal SD memory card, it alerts the user by vibrating. It then guides them to the friendly face using audio commands transmitted through a Bluetooth earpiece.
The lightweight cane is also equipped with a GPS receiver, allowing it to help the user navigate around unfamiliar areas.
The cane is being developed by three Information, Communication and Technology students at the university, Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett. Adigbo’s grandfather is blind, so the student has first-hand experience of the needs of the visually-impaired.
Before developing the cane, the students visited the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Wolverhampton, to carry out market research and to determine which key features would make the device most helpful to users. As well as a desire for high-spec technology features, people at the centre stressed the need for the cane to be lightweight and easy to use, according to the students.
The team is now planning to return to the centre later this year to give people there an opportunity to test the cane, as well as to explain the device’s training and security features to them.
The students have already presented their XploR cane to medical and healthcare companies in France and Luxembourg, and plan to travel to Germany later this year, to meet with other organisations. The project forms part of LILA, a European initiative designed to encourage entrepreneurship.