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Researchers Develop $60 Sonar Watch To Aid the Visually Impaired 30

Taffykay writes Biology and computer science students and professors at Wake Forest University have teamed up to develop a device to assist the visually impaired. Following the principles of echolocation used by bats and moths, the interdisciplinary team has developed a watch-like unit that allows the wearer to navigate their environment using sonar. To make the project even more remarkable, all the parts and materials for the prototype cost less than $60.
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Researchers Develop $60 Sonar Watch To Aid the Visually Impaired

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  • I don't think a sonar watch will prevent the blind guy on my morning commute from whacking people and utility poles with his cane.
    • LOL ... you really think he doesn't know you're there?

      He's just messing with you.

      • I make sure to stand behind a utility pole when he leaves the bus stop. He whacks people and utiltiy poles with equal pleasure.
    • Echo location isn't about removing the blind persons need for a cane, even with people who are good at it are still recommended to use a cane because things like grates, poles, or holes do not work well with echo location. As the sound passed threw it and back.
      What it does mean is with the aid of a cane and the watch they will be able to move more quickly with more assurance that there isn't something big going to be in the way.

  • by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Friday November 14, 2014 @02:28PM (#48387221) Homepage

    Mine's more like a flashlight, and vibrates based on distance. I have an idea for something better, but haven't had time to work on it. []

    • I whipped up a very similar prototype a few years ago. The vibration frequency was proportional to distance, and edges were highlighted with sharp jolts. The hope was that you could build a mental map of your surroundings by sweeping the sensor around. The ultimate downfall was the ultrasonic range finders. You need a narrow beam to be able to get any kind of reasonable spatial resolution, however, whenever you hit any sonicaly specular surface (i.e. a flat wall) at an angle that's not very close to perpend
  • This looks promising for third world markets, but it seems we could/should have something much better here already. Why not some mini LIDAR or other depth ranging technology that sends info to an array of vibrators that encircle the chest, thus giving a crude 3D representation (even behind) instead of one fixed line that must be manually scanned?

    Why not send a 40 khz signal out, then down convert it to 5-10khz on return and feed it directly to the blind persons ears (I suggest this in addition to the schem

    • Yes, I first heard of similar devices decades ago. Back in the 70s, I think, there were handheld units and I remember seeing a sonar system built into spectacle frames (I don't know if it was a practical design, not sure how it was powered).

      I think that the story here is that it's cheap and built into a watch, although I'd have thought that a handheld device would still be better for aiming as well as battery life.
  • One of the biggest scams and the worst type of leeches are the companies that make these medically necessary equipment and sell to the government. Heard annoying commercials about scooters "no paperwork, we bill medicare directly, no cost to you" ads? They are the ones. They are still selling hearing aids at 2000$ apop. Granted, these are not run of the beats head phone or bose noise cancelling ear phones. But do they have to be three times the cost of a iPhone 6? Scooters at 6000$. A sonar for visually imp
  • Say what you will about NC politics (and, shit, there is a lot to be said), we pump out some top-notch research! Wake Forest, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State seem to continually be in the science section headlines for some new something or other.

    It's also a shame that the NCAA bullshit is putting a cloud over all the hard working researchers at UNC.

  • all the parts and materials for the prototype cost less than $60.

    And something was 3D-printed, right? Or was it $60 in Bitcoins? ... Arduino?

  • []

    Though it's not got much support as yet (I am a backer).
  • That's all I've got to say.
  • this isn't news until Apple reveals a $399 version.

    then zomg! gotta have!

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.