Engineering students from Central Michigan University have developed a prototype cane for the visually-impaired that incorporates RFID technology to provide more data about the surrounding area. The “smart cane” is equipped with a reader that senses proximity to objects equipped with tags. As users approach obstacles, a sensor located inside the cane sends a signal to a small navigational system housed inside a shoulder bag, which in turn emits an audio alert that directs walkers accordingly. For individuals who are also hearing-impaired, the team has created a glove that issues warnings through subtle vibrations.
As the technology becomes further refined and more ubiquitous, it can be adopted for widespread use, but in the meantime, remains tailored for making smaller environments, such as campuses, more accessible. The long term goal is to integrate the cane’s data with GPS, theoretically enabling the system to function anywhere.