IM DoW #3 – Sense 5 Walking Stick

My device of the week for senses is the Sense Five walking stick. 

The stick’s angled design allows its user to instinctively hold it the right way. The handle is held horizontally, and the stick naturally leans forward, allowing the user to tap their surroundings as they navigate through spaces. A camera on the front actively captures images, recognizing objects and obstacles, while a simple switch allows you to toggle a torch to use the stick at night. When the camera identifies something worth alerting the user about, it communicates with the user through the handle.

The integrated ultrasonic sensor detects ­obstacles within a distance of 5 meters and is specially designed for waist-high obstacles that cannot be detected with conventional canes. It also recognizes fast-moving objects such as cars that normally pose a danger to visually impaired people. The environment information is processed in real-time and passed on to the user as surface changes to the handle. Using different rhythms and intensities, a differentiated and pleasant ­communication is possible, which uses the ­human sense of touch and thus frees the ­remaining senses.

The pros of Sense Five are not only its main functions but also its thoughtful details. For example, the Sense Five indicates the battery level by surface change. If the battery level is low, the user can simply charge while on the move with power banks, or via public power outlets. At home, it is charged on a wall mount which also functions as a recognizable and easily accessible location. Additionally, the Sense Five doesn’t just aid its owner. It can help communicate the user’s presence to others around them with its front torchlight and red taillight, making the user more obvious in low-light settings.

As for main functions, I thought that it was really interesting that the camera on the walking stick is smart and able to recognize objects. This adds so much more value to the function of the walking stick by making it a smart device. Now, blind users can truly depend on the walking stick as their eyes, instead of simply being an extension of their arms like the traditional walking sticks. Additionally, I think that another pros is the haptic touch of the walking stick. The use of haptic touch reminds me of our multi-modal sketch. Hence, I think that a pro of the Sense Five is that it is un-intrusive.

I think one of the cons of this device is that it relies heavily on only touch to inform the user.  I think that the walking stick can detect quite few things and different scenarios, but the fixed design of the handle does not allow for much change in the haptic feedback. Things like intensity and rhythm can  signal different meanings, but the difference might be too subtle or noninstinctive for certain users such as children or the elderly. I think this walking stick has the potential to be developed further, and become an IOT device. Perhaps it could be connected to something like an earpiece or a headset that could tell the user additional information to complement the haptic touch. However, their choice of tactile response is good because audio feedback could be missed in noisy environment. I think that the stick could also be connected to a GPS, so that it can also give the user directions on where to go.

Image source: This smart walking-stick uses real-time image-recognition to help the visually impaired ‘see’

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