Re-imagining the White Cane for Visually Impaired Individuals through Technology

The Problem:

  • Target Audience: Visually impaired individuals
  • A small portion of Individuals who are visually impaired use the white cane
  • The cane affects the behaviors of others
    • if they offer to help, sympathy, etc.
  • Current devices/tools employed by the visually impaired include: guide dogs, friends/family, etc.
  • Those visually impaired are unable to interact with screen based technology


  • A device/tool/service to assist visually impaired individuals
  • A kinetic proximity sensor to detect how close an object is from a subject
  • Utilizing a threshold to determine if the proximity is under a particular depth, if so, we alarm the user through a series of vibrations.
  • Vibrations would be emitted through a smart watch or telephone.

Technical Difficulties

  • All team members are beginners at coding
  • Kinect is a relatively new device, so not much information is readily available
  • Languages we used: JavaScript and C#
  • No Athenahack mentors had experience with Kinect, only one Microsoft individual was fluent in Kinect.
  • No Athenahack mentors had experience with programming Pebble Smartwatch Applications -- this led us to pivot towards notifying the user their proximity to an object through vibrations through mobile phones.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Creating a successful prototype to demonstrate our project
  • Not giving up!
  • Overcoming obstacles (time constraints, knowledge, resources, etc)
  • Pivoting, and being open minded to new ideas and ways to improve our product.

What we learned

  • Hackathons are cool!
  • Kinetic, and how to program in C# with it
  • C#, C++, JavaScript, Twilio, Express, and node.js
  • How to pitch our product to judges
  • How to create a server
  • How to send text messages from a server
  • Working with like-minded individuals
  • Collaboration, Creativity,

What's next for inSight

  • We hope to use the technology we've created to then condense the Kinect into a smaller device and turn it into a wearable.
  • The technology employed in inSight can be used in other aspects such as Security.

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