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BlindSpot: Smart cane concept looks to future

Grad student nabs second-place James Dyson Award for cane that integrates a mobile phone and uses ultrasonic technology to detect low-hanging objects from 5 to 6.5 feet away.

BlindSpot can locate a user's friend who checks in on Foursquare within walking distance. The user is guided to the location by walking in the direction that the tactile navigator is pointing in. James Dyson Award

Driven by the oft-overlooked needs of the visually impaired, Selene Chew wanted to develop something that would improve their social lives. She came up with the concept of BlindSpot, which looks like a normal white cane, but integrates a mobile phone.

You could say the device--Chew's final-year industrial design thesis project at the National University of Singapore--is a smart cane.

Instead of a screen, users navigate the menu with a tactile navigator and listen to audio cues via a Bluetooth headset. Both the headset and phone can be charged wirelessly.

Like most of today's smartphones, BlindSpot has built-in Wi-Fi, 3G, and GPS connectivity.

The phone is detachable from the cane and can be used as a normal handset. James Dyson Award

BlindSpot also uses ultrasonic technology to detect low-hanging objects from 5 to 6.5 feet away, and can still be used as a normal white cane.

For her hard work and inspired design, the 23-year-old graduate tied for second place and won $3,200 in this year's James Dyson Award, an international design competition. She has no plans to take BlindSpot commercial at the moment, but aims to work to find a suitable company to further develop the project.

The James Dyson Award is open to university students in product/industrial design or engineering in 18 countries. Organized by the James Dyson Foundation, the brief is simple: Design something that solves a problem. This year's top prize goes to Edward Linacre from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, for his Airdrop technology. The winning concept is able to extract moisture out of the air to irrigate crops during droughts.

(Source: Crave Asia)