Students at the University of Texas have invented a shoe that could replace the time-tested cane in aiding the blind in avoiding obstacles while walking.
The students have come up with a shoe covered in sensors that will vibrate once an obstacle is approached. The sensor nearest to the object will begin to shake — and the closer the obstacle, the faster the vibration.
Dr. Dinesh Bhatia of the University of Texas at Dallas supervised the group of students, whose objective was to eliminate the need for the blind to use canes while walking.
“This is an aid that gives them signals — in advance — where the obstacle is. And then they will navigate,” Bhatia said told ABC News Dallas affiliate WFAA.
Another objective of the shoes is to free up both hands for whoever wears them.
“Yes that would be nice,” Blake Lindsay, a spokesperson at Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, told WFAA. “I usually just take my left hand do that, but it would be nice to be able to have both hands.”
Though the prototype for the shoe — built by using off-the-shelf components — is a far cry from sleek, Bhatia assures that it can be improved upon.
Laura Shagman, one of the students on the design team, tested the shoe while blindfolded, and within feet of an object she was able to tell it was there. She said she’s excited about putting the shoe to use.
“If someone were to wear these shoes besides me, that would be great,” Shagman said.