The biggest desire of visually-impaired persons is to be able to lead a normal life despite their disability.
The white cane, which aids them scan their surroundings for obstacles or orientation marks, is quite useful to them. However it has its limitations.
It is these limitations that a new innovation by Anthony Muthungu, a Computer Engineering student at Zetech University, looks to address.
Mr Muthungu has invented an intelligent white cane which is an improvement from the one used mainly by the visually-impaired currently.
The Intelligent Smart Cane, as he has called it, vibrates on the user’s hand to notify them of obstacles ahead of them. The cane uses five voltage power to run the control unit which is connected to sensors that detect obstacles from a distance.
The cane detects both static and moving objects and facilitates easier communications in case of emergency.
The information is also relayed to the user through earphones — describing the object and the distance between the user and the object — to enable them to navigate the streets efficiently. The innovation is powered by solar technology.
“The audio message is accompanied by a set of vibrations in the grip with each vibration giving its meaning using a universal language called ‘Anthony’s universal language for the blind’,” said Mr Muthungu who describes himself as a social innovator.
In case of an emergency, the user can press the alert button which then provides direction and location information since it is linked to GSM and GPRS.
He noted that aside from helping the visually impaired operate normally, the smart cane enables them cut overreliance on strangers who can misdirect them.
Mr Muthungu said from a tender age, he was always mesmerised by innovations.
“I started innovating in 2006 when I created electric power from bio-gas from pit latrine. I was in standard seven,” said the innovator who is an incubatee at the Kenya ICT Authority.
“Since then, I have been able to develop other innovations to date.”
At 25, he has over 15 innovation rewards in his name including the Aspiring Inter-Varsity Innovator Award 2018 and finalist of the American Society for Mechanical Engineering Innovation Showcase this year.
Zetech University has been offering grants to Mr Muthungu’s smart cane innovation to help him market it to institutions and non-governmental organisations.
He says his innovations are inspired by the desire to make a change in society.