Design and Technology

Zoe McNamara


Vigilance Smart Cane

A device that helps blind people walk safely by using distance sensors and vibrations to let them know when something is approaching

The number of people with visual impairments increases yearly by up to 2 million worldwide. Due to the ageing of the Baby Boomer generation, Australia will have a greater population of elderly people in the next 20 years. This will result in an increase in the number of mobility and visually-impaired people. A severe difficulty this generation will face is the need for safety, independence and mobility.

Independent mobility is pivotal in ensuring our visually-impaired and ageing population can perform everyday basic tasks without depending on others. Unfortunately, a large population of cane users in society have difficulty detecting hazards until they are dangerously close, leading to falls and collisions.

Getting out into the community is important for counteracting issues experienced by visually-impaired people. Many businesses and public spaces have introduced new layouts or restrictions to try and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These adjustments may make places more difficult for visually-impaired people to navigate, meaning they may go out less often.

Studies have shown that individuals with visual impairments create spatial representations of environments in their head. If an environment has been changed to help control COVID-19 – for example by introducing screens, one-way systems or other measures – this may disrupt mental maps.

For my major project, I made a smart cane equipped with motion sensors that detect up to objects up to 3 metres away and relays the information back to the user through a series of vibrations.

To optimise the safety of individuals using the device, the handle of the cane holds red LED lights so a user can be seen and is safe at night.