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P14043 : Smart Cane

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P14043 : Smart Cane

Project Background:

Users of traditional white canes are predominantly blind or have some sort of vision loss. Also, a large number of users have both vision loss and hearing impairment to some extent. The only information gathered by users of traditional canes is that of what they can feel through contact of the cane with their environment. However, a traditional cane does not convey to the user knowledge of which direction to move when an obstacle is in the way. A seeing-eye dog is a common but expensive solution to this problem.

The solution is developing a cane that would serve the functions of a seeing-eye dog but would not incur the costs. The Smart Cane is an innovative solution that provides haptic feedback to the user that indicates the direction in which a user should move in avoidance of impending obstacles.

Project Objectives:

  • Design and build a handle for attachment to a guide cane capable of directing hearing and vision impaired users in the avoidance of obstacles
  • Provide the means of integration with a detection system provided by future iterations of the project
  • Ensure the product has visual and physical resemblance of a conventional cane
  • Ensure the product can be used through intuition with minimal training

Team Members:

William McIntyre Aaron Vogel Jake LuckmanLauren BellJessica Davila


Gary Werth, Gerry Garavuso, Patricia Iglesias, Gary Behm, Tom Oh, Helen Keller International, Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Mark Indovina, Jeff Lonneville, R.I.T. Multidisciplinary Senior Design.

Customer Requirements:


  • Roller subsystem containing ball bearings that rotate across the user’s palm allowing them to determine the direction of rotation
  • If an obstacle is to the left, the signal given from the rollers is a clockwise turn, indicating that the user should move to the right
  • If an obstacle is to the right, the signal given from the rollers is a counterclockwise turn, indicating that the user should move to the left
  • Includes a signal to stop where the subsystem rotates back and forth beneath the palm

Roller Sub-Assembly:

Testing Results:

The Roller Sub-Assembly was designed with the intent of providing the most effective haptic communication to the user. The design converged after acquiring data from a variety of user tests regarding the optimal ‘bump’ height and ‘bump’ rotational speed .

A series of multiple tests were conducted to ensure that each of the engineering requirements were met. The final test results confirmed that the design met the specifications.

Project Conclusions:

  • Future Work:
  • Since time in Multidisciplinary Senior Design is limited, there are several ideas that our team would like to see developed in future generations of the project. These include:
  • Change in elevation feedback
  • Obstacle proximity feedback
  • Manufacturing efficiency
  • Results:
  • The current prototype designed over the course of two semesters provides:
  • Directional instruction to users
  • Hardware for attachment to a traditional cane
  • Battery power for an entire day of use
  • Compact, lightweight and familiar product for users
  • Low cost product at $100 in materials and tooling