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October 25, 2020
Oscar Jones, Anais Engelmann, Kanya Thavanesan, Jonathan Tang

We want to tackle independent navigation for blind and visually impaired people in public spaces. Tactile paving and cane guides are the most effective way of making public places more accessible and indicating surroundings to blind people; however, this is not standard practice in a lot of countries, particularly inside buildings. In such environments, it is often the case that permanent tactile paving is not desirable due to practical reasons like changing room configurations, or for aesthetic reasons.

We propose a flexible smart cane guide system for independent navigation in public spaces with the goal of making society more accessible for blind and visually impaired people. Such a system would also have the ability to react to changing times and environments, such as the current global COVID-19 crisis.

1. System proposition

Digital maps of public spaces like museums and shopping centres are becoming increasingly available; we propose combining these databases with Bluetooth indoor positioning systems to create more developed interactive indoor navigation experiences. A smartphone would connect to this indoor network with an indoors map extension, allowing any user to navigate the indoors like they would the outdoors.

2. Product solution

We have designed a two part device to extend this mass market indoor navigation platform to better suit blind and visually impaired users. Part one of the device is a cane handle attachment and is how directions can be given to the user in a more desirable way. Part two of the device is a metal detector element which attaches to the lower end of the cane.This scans the floor for the invisible cane guides consisting of a metal wire embedded in tape and recreates the feeling of tactile paving.

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