Though bats are almost blind, they get around just fine thanks to their amazing ability to utilize echolocation. Naturally, it would seem that sonar can help blind people navigate their environment as well, so a team of students at Wake Forest University have developed a wrist-worn device that essentially mimics the bats’ echolocation sense, albeit rather rudimentary compared to the real thing.
The unit has a couple sonar sensors that emit high frequency sound and are able to measure the distance to objects based on the returning echo. This is reinterpreted into vibration that the wearer feels that changes in frequency depending on how close the object in front is.
The team recruited a blind student who normally gets help from a guide dog to get around to test the device, and she was able to successfully recognize closed doors in her way. They next plan to miniaturize the device and to try to make it use less electricity so that it can run on a built-in battery. The current components cost less than $60, which means that this technology may one day turn into a real product.
Wake Forest University: Sonar-assisted human navigation…