According to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), there are approximately 7.3 million blind or visually impaired people in America. This project is designed to improve the lives of these people by making it easier for them to navigate their environments more safely.

What it does

The system detects objects in front of person wearing it, as well as drop-offs. It senses the distances of objects and puts gentle pressures on the wearer's arm; the degree of pressure indicates how close they are to an object. A complete release of pressure indicates a drop-off, staircase down, or other ledge, while a heavy pressure would indicate a solid obstacle, such as a wall. It also detects the motion, applying gentle pressure to the upper arm to let the wearer know someone (or something) is moving to their side, or behind them. It is especially good at letting a person know when someone is approaching them from behind.

How we built it

The SonicStick+ consists of two components, the sonicGlove and the IReye. The sonicGlove consists of an arduino microcontroller connected to an ultrasonic sensor and servo motor, mounted on a glove and auxiliary armband. The companion IReye is made up of a TI launchpad linked to a passive IR sensor and another servo attached to an armband. Andrew sewed custom armbands and modified store-bought gloves to contain the project's electronic components. The servos have foam arms attached to them to apply pressure to the person without being painful.

Challenges we ran into

We originally planned on the IReye being made in two separate parts, where the IR sensor module would be removable. However, our RF chips had horrible documentation, and we were unable to get them to function properly. As a result, the IReye is one integrated system, and the feature was scrapped. It also took a lot of work tweaking the servos to operate as intended.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

It works, and (we think) it looks cool for the time we had.

What we learned

For most of use, this was our first time working with arduinos, so we learned how to code for arduino and wire components to them. We also learned a good deal about Serial Data Communication, even though it didn't make it into the final project.

What's next for Sonic Stick Plus

If we continue working on the system, it will be redesigned with a much smaller form factor, and probably find a way to re-introduce the removable sensor on the IReye.

Built With

  • arduinos
  • breadboards
  • passive-ir-sensors
  • servo-motors
  • sewing-machine
  • ultrasonic-sensors
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