Imagine a “Virtual Cane” App on the Horizon?

Imagine a “Virtual Cane” App on the Horizon?

I have recently joined the world of “smartphones” and am amazed by the numerous functions and apps that have made my life a little more in-touch (with the world and other people), organized, and entertained.  Who would’ve thought someone would make an app to keep mosquitoes away (Mosquito free zone), or to make everything you say into a song (Songify), or to use your camera to translate any word in front of you into any language (Camdictionary).

At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yissum Research Development Company Ltd, a “virtual cane” was developed to improve the mobility of visually-impaired people.  Dr. Amir Amedi’s team developed a device that uses the rate of vibration and sonar signals to tell the patient the proximity of other objects and people.  Traditional canes are limited by their length, but this device functions from very short distances to 10 metres.  It can give information regarding the distance and height of obstacles.

A few suggestions I have for the developers are:

1.  Change the colour of the device to a bright red colour so that other cars and people can easily recognize the person is visually impaired

2.  Have a mode where the device can easily scan a larger area so the patient can readily avoid potholes/steps on the ground

The prototype device is small, has a battery life of 12 hours, and has an estimated cost of $100 USD.  Is it only me or can you see this becoming a useful app for visually-impaired smartphone users?


Dr. Jessica Chang, OD drchang@avenueeyecare.com