Smart Guider uses sensor and camera technology developed for autonomous vehicles to power a “self-driving” cane to help blind and visually impaired users navigate to a destination.
Kelvin Crosby was thrilled when he rode in the driver’s seat of an autonomous car for the first time. An adaptive technology instructor for the San Diego Futures Foundation, Crosby was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two years ago. Immediately after he got home, Crosby bought a Raspberry Pi (a small computing kit) and began researching how to make an autonomous vehicle. He began soldering together the wires in his garage.
The experience at CES stuck with Crosby, leading him to Create his own tech startup, Smart Guider, in August. The idea behind it was to create a “self-driving” cane that can help blind and visually impaired users navigate obstacles.
Crosby brought in engineering students with UC San Diego and San Diego State University to help develop the first prototype of the product. Last year, they finished the second prototype, which uses lidar sensors, ultrasonic sensors and cameras. The cane has a motorized wheel that can steer users around obstacles to help detect the best path forward.
Using a mobile application, it will communicate with the wheel safely guiding the user to a pre-set destination.
The Smart Guider sees at 180 degrees using several different types of sensors and imaging software. The cane creates a virtual shield that covers the height and width of the user. Not only will the Smart Guider avoid the obstacle at head height, it will give haptic input to the user. This allows the user to navigate high and low objects as well obstacles on the left and right.
“If a car can go 65 miles-per-hour, why can’t I make a blind cane and put all of the technology in a stick? That’s where the vision came from,” he said. “At the end of the day, if I want to be successful in life, I need to be independent.”
Next, Crosby wants to develop a version of the cane that can alert users to approaching vehicles, so they can determine when it is safe to cross the street.