Mysuru: Four students from Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering (VCE), Mysuru have devised an automated stick for the blind. Constant worry about potholes and obstacles has affected the confidence of the visually impaired individuals while they step out of their home. This innovative stick helps visually impaired individuals be able to navigate swiftly identifying potholes and obstacles while out in crowded places.
This stick designed by the four engineering students is a low cost, reliable, portable, low power consumption and robust solution for navigation with short response time. The ultrasonic sensor is the main feature of this device. The ultrasonic sensor transmits a sound pulse at high frequency, and then measures the period to obtain the sound echo signal to mirror back. Existing smart blind sticks have obstacle detection and pothole detection using ultrasonic sensor and digital image processing respectively leading to a problem of delay. The new stick devised by these students uses ultrasonic sensors for both obstacle detection and pothole detection ensuring that the alerts are timely.
Smrithi Baliga, a third year Electronics and Communications Engineering student at Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering who had once been involved in scribe writing for a blind student for an exam, was intrigued with the problems faced by the blind student while crossing roads on the way to her exams. Teaming up with three other enthusiastic classmates, Sapna H. M., Shreyas N., and Yogesh Gowda V., Smrithi came up with an idea to develop a stick that helps visually-impaired individuals reach their destination safely. The product of this team’s passion was an Internet of Things (IoT) based stick with an obstacle and pothole detection system using ultrasonic sensors.
This project was implemented under the guidance of Dr. Chandrashekar M. Patil, Professor and Head Department of ECE and Girijamba D. L., Assistant Professor, Department of ECE at Vidyavardhaka College Of Engineering.
Sapna H. M. said, “During an interaction with my school teacher two years ago we discussed about working on a project to help the blind. Concerned for their safety, we had interacted with blind kids during that time. After my friend Smrithi discussed with me her concern about the safety of the visually impaired we eventually came up with an idea of an automated stick for them. We started with our research as soon as two other teammates too obliged the same.”
“As we researched for the project, we realised that the stick must be made at a cost that is affordable by all considering the financial constraints that many might have. During our exploration through the possible methods, we found that although image processing could be used, the cost constraints and delay in detection, we decided to deploy ultrasonic sensors for obstacle and pothole detection. Our team and our guide approved the same,” she added.
This stick is designed not only to be cost effective but also to be usable by people of all age groups. Smrithi Baliga says “This stick is designed to be easy to use for anyone and people of all age groups can use this stick. It is light weight. We were determined to implement this project as our personal interest in case this was not possible under an academic setting. Fortunately our project guides and college approved the project after we presented the idea.”
“This project was completed in three phases in a span of four months. Presentation of the synopsis and cost estimation took us one month. For the next one and half months we did the coding, mounting and threshold checks on the stick. We took another one and half months to work on the model” she added.
Shreyas N. who did the coding for the automated stick said, “I have done the coding for the stick using Arduino IDE using the threshold values provided by my friends. We are planning to improvise the voice outputs of the stick. We are also planning to make the stick more accessible for people aged below 18 years by making the length of the stick adjustable for their height too.”
Yogesh Gowda V., who was I-Charge of design and implementation said, “While we were referring to research papers relating to the project, we found out that the sticks that were designed were heavier which makes it hard for using the stick. We ensured that the stick that we designed should be lighter and easily portable for all. I am happy that we were able to achieve what we proposed while initiating the project.”
Prof. B. Sadashivegowda, Principal at VVCE said, “We are proud about our students for taking up the innovative project. In recent times technology has helped in improving healthcare across the world. Through this project our students have proven how technology could be used to fight blindness. This automated blind stick devised by our students helps visually impaired individuals to move freely with confidence.”
Below are the improvisations this team is aiming to work on:
· Voice output via Bluetooth.
· Upgradation of pot-hole detection from ultrasonic sensors to image processing techniques.
· LDR to sense lighting conditions.
· RF remote to locate the blind stick itself