Rachel Shi Ling Chan

Nicole Belanger



Andrea Cartaya

Juan Carlos Terrazas

Victor Vanorio
PROJECT: Project Gloria

blind : walking : stick : sight : sensors : TOM:Calgary : :

About the project:
We are 6 students from the University of Calgary, each studying a different field of engineering. In TOM Calgary 2015, we were paired with Gloria Rubio and tasked with developing tools to aid the visually-impaired.

The Problem:
While tools exist for the seeing impaired in their day-to-day usages, they are difficult to completely integrate into a life without feeling cumbersome. 1. Another problem with seeing canes is that the tip is often caught onto cracks or bumps, causing the user to fall. As Gloria, our "need-knower" explained, many people develop knee problems due to falling too much. 2. Many 'smartcanes' have an audio response, which can consists of beeping or of a speaking voice. This method is very public, which could be embarrassing, or ineffective in noisy environments. Moreover, many users find the traditional "smartcanes" expensive and difficult to learn, and therefore not worthwhile.

The Solution:
The team on Project Gloria, as inspired by Gloria herself, is working on our first model of "The Excalibur". In conjunction with the first issue, we created a mini ski-like attachment to be attached to the bottom of a seeing cane. The design of the 'seeing-ski' allowed for movement along the y-axis, so to allow flexibility of movement and so that it could be flipped up when not in use (such as being indoors). The first prototype was 3D printed and fitted onto a standard seeing cane from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. This would prevent the tip of the cane from catching onto obstacles, cracks, or holes and diminish the likelihood of tripping the user - all the while still allowing them to feel the texture of the ground around them. To address the second issue, "The Excalibur" will have a versatile handle suitable for both the standard “Seeing Cane” and the “ID Cane” (the first is meant as a tool for those who are completely blind and the latter for those who are partially blind). The handle is designed so that two sensors (one sonar and the other light) will detect obstacles in front of and above the user respectively. These sensors are placed in mechanical swivel heads to hold and adjust the placement of the sensors. Two output sensors nested comfortably in the hand of the user provides personal tactile feedback. Finally, housed within the frame of the 3D printed handle sits a rechargeable battery and processor. While we didn't originally plan for attachments to existing seeing cane, we eventually agreed that it would be the most advantageous approach. Some of the issues arriving to our conclusions included where to focus the weight of our attachment. It was originally meant to communicate with a bluetooth bracelet, similar to a smartwatch in terms of privacy and signalling, but relying on feedback from sensors on the cane. After closer observation with Gloria (and using canes ourselves) we realized that it would be more advantageous and simpler to keep the sensors on the handle attachment, close at 'hand'. Thus, came the electronic 'hilt' of our Excalibur. In doing so, we would have a simpler, easy to use model while also being able to keep our cost down. In working with Gloria and keeping individuals with visual impairment at the design table, we aimed to develop an insightful, personal, and intuitive tool to overcome what shouldn't have been a challenge in the first place, and we believe that our prototype is the right first step through enhancing both privacy and utility. We hope to continue with our project, amending the material used as well as improving the sophistication of our current obstacle detection system. With a working prototype, this gives us a clearer picture of what we want our product to be able to do. And from what Gloria has told us, it's a direction well worth taking.