Thanks to an Indiegogo crowdfund, the WeWALK smart cane designed for blind and visually impaired people is now in production. So far 1,500 customers in the UK, US and Turkey have ordered the invention. As one of the innovations taking part in AbilityNet's sold out TechShare Pro event in London yesterday, the team behind the product received plenty of positive feedback.
Ahead of the Canary Wharf event hosted by Barclays and supported by Google, Batuhan Demir, one of the founders, told AbilityNet more about how the smart cane works.
Hi Bhutan, what is WeWALK?
It’s a technology which fixes to a tradition white cane and enhances its capabilities for people who are blind or have visual impairment. Although technology has been steadily improving, the white cane has stayed the same for a hundred years. We saw an opportunity to enhance it.
We have created a ‘smart cane’ which attaches to the traditional white cane. It transforms the cane into an innovative smart cane with a number of features. These include an ultrasonic sensor which detects obstacles above waist height and gives off a vibration to alert users of obstacles, as well as detecting obstructions below, in the same way a standard cane does.
When paired with the WeWALK mobile application via Bluetooth, the customer can use apps with WeWALK’s touchpad voice menu without holding their phone. For example, they can request rides and get navigation on the WeWALK device via apps such as Uber and LYFT.
Tell us more about the technology involved in WeWALK?
WeWALK incorporates many cutting-edge technologies including a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, directional vibration motors, microprocessor, touchpad, microphone, speaker and Bluetooth Low Energy module. It synthesises these technologies so that the user can easily access these features on one device.
WeWALK is currently integrated with Call Management, Google Maps and Amazon Alexa (in Beta mode). Soon it will be integrated with Voice Assistant, Uber and Lyft. These new features are installed through periodic software updates. With WeWALK’s touchpad, users are able to perform certain gestures just like using a smart watch and listen to the instructions and outputs via WeWALK’s speaker.
WeWALK has a voice menu that allows the users to control its integrations and features. For example, users can perform a gesture to listen to next GPS direction instead of taking their phones out of their pockets and check the next step via their phones.
Who is the team and funding creating the WeWALK?
The WeWALK team met seven years ago on a leadership development program at university run by the Young Guru Academy (YGA) - a non-profit organisation founded in Turkey. The Academy works on breakthrough social innovations in the field of technologies for the visually impaired. One of the previous projects includes My Dream Companion - a platform that aims to provide smooth and unlimited access to contextual and spatial information for the visually impaired. Our team has worked on various technologies for blind people and those with sight loss and have patented the WeWALK.
Most of the funding comes from WeWALK’s strategic partner, Vestel. Vestel is one of Europe’s largest consumer electronics company and WeWALK is being produced in their factory in Manisa, Turkey. Customers also paid a discounted price of $350 in advance via Indiegogo, though the updated cost is to be determined, we are aware of the fact that visually impaired people have a low-income level, thus, we will be doing our best to offer WeWALK in a way that people can afford easily.