For many blind and visually impaired people, a
simple cane is still the most commonly used tool
for navigating streets. But project teams around the
globe are giving the traditional cane a high-tech
facelift by adding features ranging from gyroscopes
to GPS. For these initiatives to be successful,
project managers must glean stakeholder input to
ensure new products are practical.
In the United Kingdom, Waheed Rafiq is worried about weight. Two years ago, he and his project team at BlindX3 Ltd. began work on XploR.
Equipped with cameras and sensors along with
GPS and Bluetooth capabilities, the smart cane
alerts users of objects in their path and can also
detect when the owner has fallen and may need
help. In addition, XploR can identify faces the user
already knows and communicate who is approach-
ing through a Bluetooth headset. This makes spon-
taneous social interactions—like the conversations
that happen when you run into a friend unexpect-
edly—more possible for the visually impaired.
With the project scheduled to be completed
within the next two years, Mr. Rafiq’s team is
testing the product. The team has received user
insights that have already led to design changes.
“The weight was a big issue for them. We had to
ensure that we make [XploR] light enough that
there’s no difference in the weight” compared to
A still from a Handisco smart cane