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

  • 'Few examples of concrete action:' Study says Nunavut climate adaptation slow

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Programs to help people adapt to climate change in a part of Canada where help may be needed the most are stuck in the ice, a study has concluded. For more than a decade Inuit in Nunavut have been saying that the old ways for building, travel and hunting on the land no longer apply. Source
  • How coffee grounds turned firewood could be a lifeline for refugees

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The remnants of your morning cup of coffee could be a lifeline for refugees living in camps in sub-saharan Africa. A group of University of Toronto students have created Moto, an alternative to firewood that uses recycled coffee grounds. Source
  • California scientist names moth species after Donald Trump

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A scientist in California has named a newly discovered moth species after President-elect Donald Trump, saying the white and yellow scales on the insect's head are reminiscent of Trump's blond hairdo. The moth was named Neopalpa donadltrumpi by evolutionary biologist Dr. Source
  • Canadian scientist names moth species after Donald Trump

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A scientist in California has named a newly discovered moth species after President-elect Donald Trump, saying the white and yellow scales on the insect's head are reminiscent of Trump's blond hairdo. The moth was named Neopalpa donadltrumpi by Canadian evolutionary biologist Dr. Source
  • New species of prehistoric palm discovered in Canada

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A researcher identified a new species of small palm that once grew in Canada after examining a fossil that had been part of an Alberta museum collection for decades. Palms are typically associated with warm, tropical climates. Source
  • Trump administration's energy policy aims to revive America's coal industry

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Less than an hour after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the new administration outlined on the White House website its energy policy, which aims to focus on gas and oil, and reviving the coal industry. Source
  • Less than hour after inauguration, Trump publishes energy policy to revive coal industry

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Less than an hour after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the new administration outlined on the White House website its energy policy, which aims to focus on gas and oil, and reviving the coal industry. Source
  • Science 'Trumped' by belief: Bob McDonald

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Donald Trump has stated clearly that he believes climate change is a hoax and that vaccines cause autism, two topics that have been clearly proven by science to be untrue. Now, he has a team of players that are carrying these beliefs to other levels of government. Source
  • Trump makes cyberwarfare an official priority for new White House

    Tech & Science CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump will make cyberwarfare a "priority" in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist organizations, the new administration revealed on Friday. The White House website was updated shortly after President Trump's inauguration — offering little insight into the government's plans, but the clearest official indication yet that the government is actively engaged in digital attacks. Source
  • Samsung probe finds faulty batteries triggered fire: report

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A Samsung probe into the exploding batteries that forced the electronics giant to scrap its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones has found irregularly sized batteries caused overheating, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The South Korean conglomerate was forced to discontinue its flagship Note 7 after a chaotic recall that saw replacement phones also catching fire, with the debacle costing the company billions in lost profit and reputational damage. Source