The UltraCane is an electronic mobility aid for use by visually impaired people that delivers a "step forward" in assistive mobility aids.
The UltraCane gives mobility assistance to blind and partially-sighted people by emitting ultrasonic waves, just like the echolocation system used by bats and dolphins. In fact, it was from the knowledge and understanding of bats that the UltraCane was first developed. The bat emits an ultrasonic pulse and times how long it takes for the echo to return. By its implicit knowlege of the velocity of sound in air, the bat is able to calculate the distance to the object. This knowledge has been transferred to the UltraCane, which works in a similar way.
Ultrasonic waves are emitted through two transducers on the handle of the UltraCane and bounce off objects and obstructions in the path of the user.
The UltraCane has two ranges to choose from: a short range mode, which detects obstacles within approximately 6.5 feet of the handle, and a long range mode, which detects obstacles within 13 feet of the handle. The upper transducer can locate objects approximately 5 feet from the handle.
Feedback on obstacles is provided through two vibrating buttons located on the handle. These indicate the proximity of the object, and whether it is low down and in front of the user, or whether it is at or above head height. This tactile feedback provides the user with much more detailed information about potential dangers ahead than is possible with a traditional white cane. It is particularly useful for warning of hazards at head height.
The UltraCane gives the user more knowledge about their environment and enables them to make decisions much more quickly, thus allowing them to move around more confidently and effectively.
Here is a testimonial from Glenn Murphy about the usefulness of the cane:
" I just returned from a walk using the UltraCane & the more I use the cane the more I like it; this time of year we have a number of half or 3/4 ton trucks parked along the sidewalks which people use to pull either their trailers or boats & these trucks all seem to have side mirrors which extend much further out than a regular side mirrors & all seem to be right about head height – well the UltraCanes head-height scanner just saved my head for the third time in about as many weeks; I know that if I was still using my regular cane I would have @ least ended up with either a bloody nose or maybe even worst – you know stitches & such; I am also finding that the long range setting is increasingly helpful when crossing streets re using it to detect objects to help you keep a straight line – up where I live for instance there is a 4 lane crossing with a meridian in the middle – this meridian has trees planted down the center of it & I can use the long range setting to detect the trees, adjust my crossing, & make the 4 lane crossing right on every time. I'll be doing a lot of indoor traveling tomorrow & Wednesday – malls & such – so I'll keep you up to date on how that all goes – so far I am finding that the cane is extremely useful in these crowded environments."