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Stanford Researchers Build $400 Self-Navigating Smart Cane

Michael John Raitor using the augmented cane.
Oct 13 2021
Faculty, Fellow, Research, Stanford

Most know the white cane as a simple-but-crucial tool that assists people with visual impairments in making their way through the world. Researchers at Stanford University have now introduced an affordable robotic cane that guides people with visual impairments safely and efficiently through their environments.

Using tools from autonomous vehicles, the research team has built the augmented cane, which helps people detect and identify obstacles, move easily around those objects, and follow routes both indoors and out.

The augmented cane is not the first smart cane. Research sensor canes can be heavy and expensive — weighing up to 50 pounds with a cost of around $6,000. Currently available sensor canes are technologically limited, only detecting objects right in front of the user. The augmented cane sports cutting-edge sensors, weighs only 3 pounds, can be built at home from off-the-shelf parts and free, open-source software, and costs $400.

The researchers hope their device will be an affordable and useful option for the more than 250 million people with impaired vision worldwide.

Study co-author, Patrick Slade, is a 2016 SGF Fellow.

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