Canadian inventors' tiny device helps blind navigate daily life

White canes and guide dogs are great for helping those who are blind or partiality sighted to navigate curbs and tripping hazards.

See Full Article

But what about hanging branches, low doorways and overhangs?

There’s never been a way for blind people to spot these obstacles. But now a pair of University of Toronto graduates has come up with a device that can clip onto a lapel or collar that will alert users to high objects that no cane or guide dog could see.

It’s called “BuzzClip” and it’s a small device that vibrates when it detects nearby objects. The closer the user gets to the obstacle, the more intense the vibrations become. And users can set the device to spot objects as far away as a full metre.

Inventor and civil engineering grad Bin Liu says the device takes existing technology and re-purposes it for the blind.

“We use essentially the same technology as car reverse systems. It uses ultrasound to detect how far something is,” he explained to CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday.

Rather than replace other visual aids, the BuzzClip is meant to supplement them.

“Canes and guide dogs are very efficient for lower body objects, but not for upper body or for obstacles such as low-hanging branches,” he said.

“The BuzzClip adds an extra level of protection to avoid injuries.”

Liu came up with the device because his own father has already begun to experience visual impairment.

“My dad has glaucoma. He has a lot of vision left but he’s over 50 years old so it’s only going to get worse. My intention was to create something he could use,” he said.

Inspiration for the BuzzClip also came from Liu’s business partner, Arjun Mali, who has spent decades volunteering with his family at an orphanage in India for blind children. “So he was on board from the first second,” says Liu.

Many of the kids at the orphanage have already been able to try out a prototype of the device, which has also undergone months of testing here in Canada as well. Liu says users are even finding new uses for the device he hadn’t even imagined.

“So for example, they can gauge the distance of a lineup and see if the line is moving, instead of having to reach out and touch the person in front of them all the time,” Liu said. Or they can use it to help them find their garbage bin after garbage pickup, and other everyday tasks.

Liu and Mali have now created a company called iMerciv to sell the device. Over the last months, the pair have raised more than US$61,000 through an Indiegogo online crowdfunding campaign.

“That was to validate that our product was something that people actually wanted,” Liu explained.

They have also received several hundred pre-orders and hope to begin delivery of the devices in April.

“We will be selling it through our website and we’re in talks with distributors,” he said. “So yeah, we’re pretty excited.”



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Oldest zoo gorilla doing well after biopsy before birthday

    Tech & Science CTV News
    POWELL, Ohio - The oldest known gorilla living in a zoo is doing well after a surgical biopsy ahead of her 60th birthday on Dec. 22. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said Saturday that veterinarians successfully removed a mass under the gorilla's arm that recently started causing her discomfort. Source
  • Friendly moose befriends 2 cows on Vermont farm

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SHELDON, Vt. -- A Vermont couple has chased off a moose that appeared to be bonding with their two cows on a Sheldon farm because they didn't want it to get injured, stuck in their barn or damage their fences. Source
  • Scientists gathering in Winnipeg to focus on 'complex' changing Arctic climate

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The largest single gathering of scientists focused on the rapidly changing Arctic gets underway in Winnipeg on Monday. ArcticNet 2016 will see 800 scientists from across the country gather at the RBC Convention Centre to present research on a wide array of subjects impacting the health of the biology and the physical systems of the Arctic. Source
  • Apple founder street name shakes Paris suburb to the core

    Tech & Science CTV News
    He changed technology and how the world communicates. Now, five years after he died, Apple founder Steve Jobs may be remembered in another way -- on a Paris street. "Rue Steve Jobs" is among names shortlisted for one of the new roads in the French capital's southeastern 13th arrondissement that will lead to a new incubator for hi-tech start-ups. Source
  • A sound investment for Lamborghini fans

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The Ixoost EsaVox Speaker system is inspired by a Lamborghini's quad exhaust and ventilation set up and comes with the automotive marque's seal of approval. Like the most exclusive and most extreme cars in production, the Ixoost EsaVox is hand crafted in Italy. Source
  • A planet's worth of human-made things has been weighed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new report has calculated the total mass of all the technology humans have produced, everything from buildings to cars and computers, and found it is an astounding 30 trillion tons. That is more than the total amount of living matter on Earth. Source
  • Is chocolate really good for you? UBC scientists make new tool to measure antioxidants

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Every chocolate lover wants the headlines about antioxidants in chocolate to be true. And, for better or for worse, determining just how much of the disease-fighting molecules are contained in this popular treat may be getting a little easier. Source
  • Canadian researchers are leading the way to Mars

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When humans one day set foot on Mars, Canadians will have contributed a lot of science to having made that happen. As Canadians, we're not known for bragging, but there are many Canadian scientists and engineers who have contributed greatly to our understanding of Mars and who are paving the way for humans to one day settle on its dusty surface. Source
  • Canadian scientists help prepare a path to Mars

    Tech & Science CBC News
    If humans one day set foot on Mars, Canadians will have contributed to the science that helped make it possible. As Canadians, we're not known for bragging, but there are many Canadian scientists and engineers who have contributed greatly to our understanding of Mars and who are preparing the path for humans to one day settle on its dusty surface. Source
  • 4 major world cities pledge to eliminate diesel vehicles

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Host Mexico City has joined with Paris, Madrid and Athens in committing to eliminate diesel vehicles from their cities by 2025. The C40 Mayors Summit announced the agreement Thursday. A statement said the commitment would reduce air pollution and related health issues in those cities, while also helping cities meet climate goals. Source