Listed below, in alphabetical order, are commercially available electronic travel aids for the blind. I obtained most of the information from a publication entitled: "Electronic Mobility Devices or Obstacle Detectors for Blind and Partially Sighted People, Devices which are currently available 18 April 1994," by Gill Whitney, Royal National Institute for the Blind. The article entitled "Mobility Devices," by Leicester W. Farmer, which appears in Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, edited by Richard L. Welsh, and Bruce B. Blash, American Foundation for the Blind, New York (1980) describes some of the older devices listed below in much detail. Peter Meijer's external links webpage is a nice compendium of links to all sorts of research on blind aids. Dr. John Gill of RNIB also has a great page on available devices. Tom Brennan has posted instruction manuals for these devices. Similarly, the Institute for Innovative Navigation has an excellent website on blind navigation technologies. Module 4 of a course offered by Texas Tech University also outlines advantages and disadvantages of various ETAs. For a listing of ETA patents, see my patents webpage.
There are two major components to an electronic travel aid, the sensor and the display. Under the heading "Sensor," I identify some characteristics of the sensor and how it is mounted. Under the heading "Display," I indicate how the device presents spatial information to the blind traveler. Since we live in a three dimensional space, an object's position is determined by three coordinates, the azimuth, elevation and range with respect to the user. Hence, I've identified how information regarding each of these coordinates is conveyed to the blind user via the remaining senses of hearing and touch. For more detailed information, see my web page "On Electronic Travel Aid Design." and the on line text "Electronic Travel Aids: New Directions for Research," National Academy Press, (1986).
Device: Batcane/Ultracane Cambridge Consultants for Sound Foresight email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: Sensor: Ultrasonic sensor located on long cane. Display: Vibration Device: BAT "K" Sonar Cane Bay Advanced Technologies, LTD (BAT) 31/7 Saint Vincent Avenue Remuera Auckland 1005 New Zealand Phone: +64 9 5228872 email: email@example.com Cost: NZ$ 900.00 Weight: Sensor: Ultrasonic sensor that attaches to your long cane. Display: azimuth: hand orientation elevation: hand orientation range: the closer the object, the lower the pitch. Users can simultaneously track multiple objects, and sense object texture. Hear how it sounds. Device: CDM-90 Manufacturer: Shanghai Acoustical Laboratory Academia Sinica, 456 Xiao Mu Qiao Lu Shanghai 200032 China. Cost: $280 Weight: <0.1 Kg. Sensor: ultrasonic, headmounted spectacles with control box Display: azimuth: head-azimuth, elevation: head-elevation range: the closer the object, the higher the pitch of a tone (beep) and the faster its repetition rate. Device: C2 Talking Compass (formerly Columbus) Manufacturer: Robotron Pty.Ltd. Sensory Tools Division Robotron Group 15 Stamford Road Oakleigh 3166, Australia Tel +61 3 9568 2568 Fax +61 3 9568 1377 Cost: $69.95 Weight: 2.2 oz. Sensor: Mechanical magnetic compass with digital output Display: Digitized speech azimuth: 8 cardinal points Device: GuideCane Manufacturer: University of Michigan Dept. of Mech.Eng. & Appl. Mech. Advanced Technologies Lab 1101 Beal Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2110 Tel: email:firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: Prototype Weight: Sensor: Ultrasonic Display: Tactual: GuideCane is a robotic guide dog which pulls the user on a clear path around obstacles. Patent#: 5,687,136 Device: Handguide Guideline Tel: 1-800-809 1849 email:email@example.com Cost: $79.00 Weight: Sensor: Infrared 4 foot range Display: Vibration, chirping Device: Lasercane Manufacturer: Nurion Raycal Station Square Building 2, Suite B Paoli, Pennsylvania 19301 USA Phone: 610-640-2345; Fax: 610-647-2216 email:firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: $2500 Weight: <0.5 Kg. Sensor: laser measurement by triangulation mounted on long cane Display: azimuth: cane azimuth elevation: objects detected for two distinct elevations, forward and ~45 degrees in the forward/upward direction and signaled by two different tones and vibrational rates; Also drop-off warning upon disappearance of ground surface. range: Tone/vibration presented for objects detected within 12 feet. Patent#: 3,198,952 Device: Laser cane optical bar code reader Manufacturer: Sten Löfving Optical sensors Kvarnbergsgatan 4 S-411 05 Gothenburg, Sweden Phone: +46-(0)31-711 25 35 Fax: +46-(0)31-711 49 46 email:email@example.com Cost: Weight: Sensor: laser Display: azimuth: elevation: range: 15 meters. Device: MiniGuide Manufacturer: GDP Research Adelaide, Australia email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: $250 Weight: 20 grams (<1 ounce) Sensor: Ultrasonic Display: azimuth: elevation: range: pitch, musical tone, tactile up to 4 meters. watchdog lowpower mode; Device: MoBIC Travel Aid Manufacturer University of Magdeburg Department of Computer Science Institute of Simulation and Graphics Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg D-39106 Magdeburg Germany Tel:49 391 5592 3773 email:email@example.com Cost: Weight: Sensor: Radio frequency triangulation via timing signals from the worldwide Global Positioning System (GPS) coupled to a digital map database and digital compass. Display: Voice synthesis azimuth: voice synthesis elevation: range: voice synthesis Device: Mowat Sensor (no longer available) Manufacturer: Pulse Data International Ltd. 1 Expo Place Christchurch, New Zealand Tel: 643 384 4555 Cost: $775 Weight: 0.185 Kg. Sensor: Ultrasonic, handheld Display: azimuth: hand orientation elevation: hand orientation range: the closer the object, the faster the vibrator rate, and the louder the sound (via earphone); switchable maximum detection range of 1 meter or 4 meters; Patent#: 3,718,896 Device: Pilot Light, mini-radar Manufacturer: Seal Corso Francia, 98 10093 Collegno (Torino) Italy Tel: 11 411 2255 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: 356 Weight: 0.170 Kg. Sensor: Infrared, handheld Display: azimuth: hand orientation elevation: hand orientation range: the closer the object, the louder the sound and the more intense the vibration. Adjustable detection range up to 3.5 meters. Responsive to infrared talking signage. Device: Polaron Manufacturer: Nurion Raycal Station Square Building 2, Suite B Paoli, Pennsylvania 19301 USA Phone: 610-640-2345; Fax: 610-647-2216 email:email@example.com Cost: $870 Weight: 0.257 Kg. Sensor: ultrasonic, handheld Display: azimuth: hand orientation elevation: hand orientation range: the closer the object, the higher the pitch of a tone, and the more intense the vibration. Selectable detection ranges of 4 feet, 8 feet, and 16 feet. Device: Russell Pathsounder Manufacturer: Russell, Lindsay 100 Memorial Dr., Suite 5-18-C Cambridge, MA 02142 Phone: 617-547-0819 Sensor: Ultrasonic, chest-mounted Display: Vibratory/Auditory Azimuth: Chest azimuth Elevation: Chest elevation Range: Buzz at 6 ft, high-pitched beeping at 32 inches. Patent#: 3,321,737 Device: Sensory 6 Manufacturer: Brytech, Inc. P.O. Box 8823 Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1G 3J2 Phone: (613) 731-5800 Fax: (613) 731-5812 Cost: $950 Weight: 0.3 Kg. Sensor: Ultrasonic, head mounted spectacles and control box Display: azimuth: head orientation elevation: head orientation range: the closer the object, the higher the pitch of a tone Selectable detection ranges of 2 meters and 3.5 meters. Device: KASPA:SonicGuide(no longer manufactured) See BAT "K" Sonar Cane (entry above) Manufacturer: SonicVisioN Cost: $3300 Weight: Kg. Sensor: Wideangle ultrasonic, head mounted with control box Display: azimuth: binaural interaural intensity difference elevation: head elevation range:the closer the object, the lower the pitch. Users can simultaneously track multiple objects, and sense object texture. Sound delivered via a pair of small tubes so as not to mask environmental sounds. Patent#: 4,292,678 4,310,903 Device: Sonic Pathfinder Manufacturer: Perceptual Alternatives 40 Rowan St. Doncaster East Victoria 3109 Australia Tel: +61 (0) 3 98 48 96 94 email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Tony Heyes) Cost: $US 1695 Weight: Headband: 125gms. Electronics: 200 gms. Sensor: Ultrasonic headmounted array Display: azimuth: for objects toward the left, tone presented to left ear, for objects toward the right, tone presented to right ear, and for objects in front, tone presented to both ears. elevation: head orientation range: specific object range given as notes of a musical scale, each note covering approximately 30 centimeters. Object detection range is automatically adjusted by microprocessor, increasing as the user's walking speed increases. Maximum range is 2.4 meters. Thus the device automatically adjusts its range according to the walking speed of the user. Sound delivered via earphones held near to, but not covering, the ears so as not to mask environmental sounds. Battery life after a full charge: 30 hours. Patent#: UK number: 1604304 Device: Strider(development on hold) Manufacturer: Arkenstone, Inc. 555 Oakmead Parkway Sunnyvale, CA 94086 USA Tel:(408) 245-5900 (800) 444-4443 Cost: Weight: 5.0 Kg. Sensor: Radio frequency triangulation via timing signals from the worldwide Global Positioning System (GPS) coupled to a digital map database. Display: Voice synthesis. azimuth: voice synthesis elevation: range: voice synthesis Patent#: 5,470,233 Device: Talking Radar Cap Manufacturer: BestPluton Europe Montmorency, France Tel: 33 1 39 64 05 90 email: Bestpluton@free.fr Cost: ¤270 Weight: 60 grams Sensor: CCD, GPS, compass, ocr Display: Talking, bilingual English/French Can actually record your trip and return you back to your starting point via the GPS system! Can read signs via OCR! Device: Talking Signs Manufacturer: Talking Signs Company 812 North Boulevard Baton Rouge, LA 70802 Tel: (888) 825-5746 Fax: (504) 344-2811 email:email@example.com Cost: Weight: Sensor: infrared, handheld Display: reception of recorded message over an infrared communication system from a transmitter located at a particular landmark. Patent#: 5,623,358 5,616,901 5,757,530 Device: Talking Lights Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center 2232 Webster Street San Francisco, CA. 94115 Tel: 415-561-1620 Device: vOICe Learning Edition Manufacturer: Peter Meijer Philips Research Laboratories Prof. Holstlaan 4 5656 AA Eindhoven The Netherlands Phone: not public email: http://www.visualprosthesis.com/contact.htm Cost: $0 (Freeware evaluation version) Weight: Kg. Sensor: Videoconferencing camera (webcam) Display: Stereo headphones azimuth: binaural panning and timing elevation: height is mapped to pitch range: implicit via movement and recognition Patent#: 5,097,326 Device: Walkmate Manufacturer: SafeTech International, Inc. 311 Commercial Ave. Suite 210 Palisades Park, New Jersey 07650 USA Tel: 201-461-2505 Cost: $185 Weight: 0.2835 Kg. Sensor: Ultrasonic handheld or chest worn Display: azimuth: hand or chest orientation elevation: hand orientation range: indication via tones of varying pitch, and via vibrator. Maximum detection range is 6 feet, beeping and vibrational rate increases when object is 3 feet away. Device: Wheelchair Mobility Device Manufacturer: REMAP c/o John Wright Hazeldene Igtham Sevenoaks Kent TN15 9AD Tel: 0732 883818 Cost: $Donation Device: Wheelchair Pathfinder Manufacturer: Nurion Raycal Station Square Building 2, Suite B Paoli, Pennsylvania 19301 USA Phone: 610-640-2345; Fax: 610-647-2216 email:firstname.lastname@example.org Cost: $2500-$4500 Weight: Sensor: Ultrasonic, wheelchair mounted Display: azimuth: wheelchair mounted side detectors warn users of objects within 1 foot of side of chair so user can travel parallel to wall. elevation: range: drop off and step detection,
Last updated 21 September 2005
Keywords: Electronic travel aids, ETA, Electronic mobility devices, Mobility aids, Obstacle detectors, Navigational aids, Blind aids, Electronic spatial sensing, Spatial orientation, Spatial perception.
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