As the trend for wearable technology continues, using fashion accessories as an extension of your smartphone is becoming increasingly common. However now two entrepreneurial engineers from the Tec de Monterrey institute in Mexico have taken wearable technology beyond just emails and social networking, by creating a bracelet with a very specific purpose, to help the visually impaired navigate more safely the world around them.
Based on an echo system, as used by animals such as bats and dolphins, the Sunu band bracelet emits high-frequency sound waves that bounce after hitting an object, before recording these waves with a proximity sensor and calculating the distance. The bracelet then sends this information to the wearer using vibrations, which increase in frequency the closer the wearer gets to the object. The bracelet can be used both in and outdoors and has a range of 4.5 meters.
The entrepreneurs behind the design, Marco Antonio Trujillo Tejeda and Cuauhtli Padilla Arias, have also developed a tag to go with the bracelet that locates lost objects. Place the tag on an object such as keys, and the tag will communicate the location of the object to user via Bluetooth, sending the information to the bracelet or a smartphone, using vibrations which will indicate to the user the distance of the object.
The bracelet is currently protected by international patent and is in the process of being internationally produced in Mexico. It will go on pre-sale through a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com starting this month.
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Also available to assist the visually impaired with mobility is the BuzzClip. A small, discreet device that clips onto your clothing, the BuzzClip uses ultrasound to detect the objects around wearer, alerting them to potential obstacles with vibrations. The wearer can select the range, either 1 or 2 meters, and as one gets closer to the objects, the frequency and intensity of the vibrations increase. Users can also wear more than one BuzzClip at a time, to receive even more information about their surroundings, and protect all sides of the body from possible collisions. Originally thought up in August 2014, BuzzClick, based out of Canada, is now available for pre-order on indiegogo.com, and is due to go into production in February 2016 for March-April deliveries.
Other wearable technology currently in development for the visually impaired is the Dot watch, the first braille smart watch. Compatible with both iOS and Android devices, the design coming out of South Korea allows the blind and those with poor vision to check not only the time, but also messages and tweets when connected to a mobile device. Available to pre-order now and aiming to be on sale in the US, UK, and Korea between April and June 2016, with other English-speaking countries following soon after, it will retail at $300.