Currently Available Electronic Travel Aids for the Blind


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: info@soundforesight.co.uk

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: inquiries@batforblind.co.nz

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:johannb@umich.edu
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:wkramer1@comcast.net 
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:info@nurion.net
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:sten.lofving@mbox300.swipnet.se 
Cost:
Weight:
Sensor:         laser
Display:        azimuth:
                elevation:
                range: 15 meters.

Device:       MiniGuide
Manufacturer:   GDP Research
                Adelaide, Australia
                email: websales@gdp-research.com.au
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:tstr@isg.cs.uni-magdeburg.de
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: pilotlight@tin.it
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:info@nurion.net
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: t.heyes@optometry.unimelb.edu.au (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:ward@talkingsigns.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:info@nurion.net
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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