September 12, 2003
Batcane Helps Blind People Navigate With Sonic Waves

A walking cane for the blind developed by Dean Waters and research associates uses sonar to detect obstacles.

A “Batcane,” developed by Sound Foresight Ltd. and Cambridge Consultants Ltd., directly mimics bats' echolocation by emitting ultrasonic pulses of sound (beyond the reach of human hearing) and analyzing the echoes that bounce back from nearby objects.

It works over a wider range of height levels than a conventional walking cane.

The cane navigates by bouncing ultrasonic signals off objects that lie in its path and feeding the information back to the user. This makes it possible to avoid obstacles with confidence - even obstacles at head height. No other primary aid can do this effectively. The batcane is now being developed for manufacture and will be launched at the start of 2004.

It works for a distance of 3 meters (about 9 feet).

It also picks up the reflections of these waves to map obstacles up to three metres away in three dimensions. Buttons on the cane's handle vibrate gently to warn a user to dodge low ceilings and sidestep objects blocking their path.

But will this remain a technology only for blind people? Think about it. Bats use sonar. Their sonar transmitters and receivers must be very small because, well, bats are very small. Wouldn't it be handy to have built-in sonar perhaps located the back of your ears and under your chin? If it could be made to blend in it might not affect your appearance. You'd get a warning of you were about to, say, bump your head or trip over a chair in the dark. Sonar could warn you if you are about to walk off a steep cliff or become entangled in brush.

Then there is the comic book and movie superhero angle. Batman should certainly have at least a Batcane for sneeking up on bad guys at night His Batcar should have sonar as well. Infrared isn't adequate for cold objects. But if he's going to be a superhero then he ought to have genetic engineering to give him supersenses befitting his exalted role.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 September 12 01:28 PM  Cyborg Tech

Patrick said at September 15, 2003 1:14 AM:

And let us not forget that fine resolution sonar would let us see through clothing...

Pam Punihaole said at December 5, 2005 6:43 PM:

Could you please give me more info. on how to purchase this walking cane and the price of it. I would really appreciate it.

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