BARCELONA, Spain--We all need a bit of direction in life, especially when we're getting on in years. With the Fujitsu New Generation Cane, a prototype superconnected walking stick, seniors can find their way, stay healthy, and keep loved ones posted on their progress.
The cane prototype is on show at Mobile World Congress, proving that "mobile device" doesn't just mean a phone or tablet. Packed with GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it not only guides you to your destination but records data to make sure you're not in trouble.
The cane is topped by a contoured handle made of glossy plastic, which curves all the way around the hand in a loop. The handle flares at the front, a bit like the pommel of a sword, where there's a screen of large light-up colored dots that displays useful information to the walker. It displays either big green arrows pointing you in the right direction, or big green numbers to tell you your heart rate.
Also on the top are indicators for the Wi-Fi and battery status. When not in use, the dots disappear so it looks like a plain black curved handle.
To use the cane for navigation, you or a loved one first programs the route into a piece of software on your computer. The cane then displays arrows on the handle to guide you in the right direction as you walk. Your position is beamed back to the computer so your relatives or carers can see your progress on a map, and see if you've gone off track.
There are various sensors built-in too, including a step counter that records the number of times the cane is tapped against the ground as you walk. And there's a temperature and humidity sensor, so loved ones can monitor how hot it is and change the route -- perhaps directing you to some shade.
The heart rate sensor works out how your ticker is doing when you press your thumb over a sensor on the handle. A green heart appears on the screen, followed by a number. Like the arrows, the number is displayed in big, easy-to-see colored dots. Data can also be recorded and shared with your doctor or health professional.
Conceived for use by seniors, the New Generation Cane is also useful for anyone heading out on a hike who doesn't want to keep whipping out their phone or a map to see which way to go. And it's great for anyone who needs the cane because of an injury, leaving them without a free hand to consult a map.
For more prototypes and all the latest phones and tablets, check out our in-depth, video-packed coverage as we cane it at mobile phone fiesta Mobile World Congress.