A Virtual Cane for the Visually Impaired

cane

[Roman] has created an electronic cane for the visually impaired. Blind and visually impaired people have used canes and walking sticks for centuries. However, it wasn’t until the 1920′s and 1930′s that the white cane came to be synonymous with the blind. [Roman] is attempting to improve on the white cane design by bringing modern electronics to the table. With a mixture of hardware and clever software running on an Android smartphone, [Roman] has created a device that could help a blind person navigate.

The white cane has been replaced with a virtual cane, consisting of a 3D printed black cylinder. The cane is controlled by an ATmega328 running the Arduino bootloader and [Roman's] code. Peeking out from the end of the handle is a Maxbotix ultrasonic distance sensor. Distance information is reported to the user via a piezo buzzer and a vibration motor. An induction coil allows for charging without fumbling for tiny connectors. A Bluetooth module connects the virtual cane to the other half of the system, an Android phone.

[Roman's] Android app runs solely on voice prompts and speech syntheses. Navigation commands such as “Take me to <address>” use the phone’s GPS and Google Maps API to retrieve route information. [Roman's] app then speaks the directions for the user to follow. Help can be summoned by simply stating “Send <contact name> my current location.” In the event that the user drops their virtual cane, “Find my device” will send a Bluetooth command to the cane. Once the command is received, the cane will reveal its position by beeping and vibrating.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Using technology to help disabled people is one of the best hacks we can think of. Hackaday alum [Caleb Kraft] has been doing just that with his work at The Controller Project. [Roman] is still actively improving his cane. He’s already won a gold medal at the Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair. He’s entered his project in several more science events, including the Canada Wide Science Fair and the Google Science Fair. Good luck [Roman]!

Attacknid Becomes Laser Death Drone

Laser Drone

[styroPyro] liked his Attacknid, but decided it needed just a bit more blue death ray laser. We’ve seen [styroPyro's] high-powered laser hacks before, but this time he’s taken to hacking one of [Jaimie Mantzel's] Attacknid robots. According to one of the top comments on [styroPyro's] video—a comment by Attacknid inventor [Jaimie] himself—the robots were meant to be hacked, and [Jamie] is ecstatic.

[styropyro] removed the disk shooter from his Attacknid and used the fire control circuit to activate a 2 watt blue laser. A low powered, red laser pointer serves as a laser sight, allowing you to aim at your target before unleashing the beefy blue laser. As the video shows, 2 watts is a heck of a lot of power. The Attacknid easily pops balloons and sets fire to flash paper. As usual, we urge you to use caution when handling 2 watt lasers, which fall under Class 4: aka the most dangerous class of lasers. Goggles, skin protection, and safety interlocks are the order of the day. [styroPyro] has been working with high power lasers for a few years, and seems to know what he’s doing. That said, we’ll leave the burning lasers to the professionals.

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Rubik’s Cube for the blind

Check out this Rubik’s Cube for the blind. The idea didn’t start off as an accessibility hack, but instead as a way for [Brian Doom] to figure out where the face of each cube goes when manipulating the puzzle. It gave him tactile feedback and his ability to use it in dim lighting was when it dawned on him that this could be useful to others.

Now when we first thought of a puzzle for the blind the term ‘Braille’ immediately jumped to mind. But this doesn’t use it. That’s great, because not all visually impaired people can understand Braille. Instead, this uses dimension and texture to identify each of the puzzle faces. There are mushroom-shaped knobs, Phillips screws, adhesive rubber bumpers, raised text label maker labels, and a few other items that go along with each color. This doesn’t prevent those with sight from playing either. It’s something of one Rubik’s cube for all. Well, all except for the robots made to solve a stock cube.

[via Dvice]

The Hand-Mounted Haptic Feedback Sonar Obstacle Avoidance Asstance Device.. Or the Tacit

Here is a hack that takes the stick out of the blind mans hand. [Steve] has been working on the Tacit, a wrist mounted sonar device with haptic feedback, it’s like strapping a bat to your wrist to help you see. The Tacit uses two sonar ping sensors to measure the distance to the nearest obstacle, the relative distance to an object is then fed back to the user using two servos which apply pressure to the back of the wrist. The Tacit is sporting an Arduino pro mini to control the ping sensors and drive the servos, and runs off a 9 volt battery.

This is not an entirely new concept, haptic headbands have been around on the net for a while, but the Tacit allows the user to detect  obstacles on the ground waiting to trip you up. All in all a neat hack that may have a future in helping the blind. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.

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Roller curtains with your graphics on them

[Lenore] added a bit of customization to her office window hangings by fitting roller curtains with custom printed fabric. The treatment seen above is a $20 Enje roller blind from Ikea but that logo is all Evil Mad Science. The weight at the bottom of the fabric uses a friction-fit plastic insert that can be stapled onto new material. Some fusible tape was ironed onto the sides to finish those edges, and the roller at the top has strong adhesive that remains for a second use after peeling off the original material.

A fabric printer was used to produce this rendition of shades. But we’d like to see some conductive thread added for a fabric-based display that can be rolled up when not in use.

Audible tuner for the blind

[Lain Sharp] modified this guitar tuner so it can be used by his blind friend. In the picture above you can make out a small white project box that houses the additional electronics. Inside is another battery and an ATmega168 providing a connection for an earphone. The AVR chip connects to each LED on the tuner and converts the visual tuning meter to an audio cue. Check out the demonstration clip after the break to see how it works.

Now if we could just figure out how to get our strings in tune with our built-in keyboard.

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DS based reader for the blind

[Epokh] has release some homebrew software that uses a Nintendo DS as a voice reader for documents. This is extremely useful for blind and visually impaired folks who normally use screen readers but can utilize this technology for reading books, documents, and email on the go. Future versions look to add an email client and implement OCR via the camera for reading documents on the go.

The flite package is utilized to provide the text to speech functionality. We’re familiar with this package and judging by the video after the break, it lost nothing in the port to the DS hardware. [Epokh] pointed out that similar readers can cost $1500 when a DS sells for around $130. We can’t wait to see the final version fleshed out!

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