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Smart Wristbands Instead of Canes for Blind People

Smart Wristbands Instead of Canes for Blind People

Wednesday, 1 November, 2017 - 06:15
Eating in the dark in Nepal's restaurant for the blind/REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Fernando Albertorio strolls down easily in the crowded sidewalk in downtown Washington that is crowded with pedestrians and food trucks, no one would notice that he is legally blind.

Albertorio considers that this wristband helps people with visual impairments to live their daily life in the outside without needing help from others, which enhances their personal space.

According to the Washington Post, the wristband, called Sunu, emits a high-frequency sound wave that bounces off objects as far as 14 feet in front of him before registering as a gentle, pulsing vibration on his arm.

The closer the object is, whether it’s a wall, trash can or person, the more frequent the pulses become, allowing Albertorio to create a mental map of the world around him using echolocation.

He compares the device to sonar being used in vehicles to sense nearby objects and avoid crashes.

Albertorio, who grew up in Puerto Rico, is part of a team of entrepreneurs from Mexico who built Sunu from scratch and are hoping their invention changes the way visually impaired people get around.

Albertorio told the Washington Post: “One of my friends calls the device his ‘sixth sense. It enhances my awareness of my personal space when I’m out in my neighborhood.”

For the visually impaired, smartphone apps can help them hail a ride, link to real-time maps and get to the nearest convenience stores.

But avoiding a tree branch obstructing a sidewalk after a storm or walking through a busy, rush-hour crowd, not to mention finding an office in an unfamiliar building or locating the closest restaurant in a new neighborhood. There is no app for that.

It was those challenges, the kind that can fill an ordinary day with physical hazards and extreme complication that led Albertorio to develop Sunu.

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