The Interface Concept

3D Rendering of the white cane's grip interface showing 1 buttons on the grip and an area for the fingers where vibrations will happen for tactile output

The white cane is the single most important tool for blind people to orientate themselves in their immediate environment. Our basic idea is to make the white cane a connected device which can act as an interface to the urban environment and to the user’s smartphone. The goal is to offer a seamless experience while walking/navigating through the city. The interface has to be minimally invasive and does not conflict too much with their senses, so that users can use their senses where they are needed most.

picture of the 2 interface prototypes for different use-cases. Also showing how the interface can be screwed to an white cane's stick

The grip-interface itself can be screwed to a white cane’s stick to turn it a modular system, where different versions of the interface could be used for different settings. Also, the visually impaired who are not always relying on white canes to walk could use the interface without the stick mounted to the grip.

(First Prototype) Features & Use-Cases

Location Finding (via beacons)

picture of an beacon/audio sensor mounted to handrails at a trainstation. The sensor comes with built in speakers and one big info button

Easily locate points of interest both indoors and outdoors by triggering the beacon to sound out the name of the location directly from the white cane’s grip - allowing to quickly tell its direction and distance. As you approach each beacon, the grip pulses vibrations of different lengths to give accurate distance feedback to the beacon.

BlindSquare Remote Control

picture showing an user with the white cane in his hands

Control the popular BlindSquare iPhone App directly from the white cane’s grip without the need to pull it out of your pocket. As you travel and discover new areas, you have realtime and context-specific access to descriptions of the environment, points of interest, and street intersections.

  • 1 press = Where am I? Read the current location.
  • 2 press = Track a location saved in My Places
  • 3 press = Look Around
We are working together with Ilkka Pirttimaa from BlindSquare to expand the functionalities. Next steps are to get realtime haptic feedback into the cane.

Access Realtime Public Transport and City Infrastructure Information

Using ID Signal Control, activate a speaker on a street corner, the tram, train or bus to sound out its number and any useful information simply by pressing a button on the white cane‘s grip.

How we built it?

All the communication between the grip, phone and beacons happen using Bluetooth LE. At this prototype phase we’re using the open source RFduino, which combines the Arduino platform with a Bluetooth LE module. It’s easy to prototype with, really small and has very low power consumption. To build the beacon and grips, we used the Replicator 2 3d printer at FROLIC Studio and once we were happy with the feel and form, we printed high quality nylon-based plastic versions.

picture showing the technical architecture of the prototypes drawn on a white-board

Ruben van der Vleuten while working on the industrial design of the interface

soldering of the bluetooth LE / Arduino board

the interface opened up and revaling the technical components

testing of the direction-vibrations using an custom demo-app for iPhone

user test session with Gerhard Hojas & Martin Marchstein together with Markus Schmeiduch

user test session with Gerhard Hojas & Martin Marchstein together with Andrew Spitz