Student-Designed Cane Can Recognize Familiar Faces

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When you see someone you recognize, you might wave, smile, go in for a handshake, or (depending on who they are) duck around a corner and hide. Soon, all of that may be possible even if you’re blind.

A group of Information and Communications Technology students at Birmingham City University in the UK are developing XploR, a cane that can recognize and identify faces from up to 33 feet away. Images of different faces are stored on an internal SD card, and an embedded digital camera analyzes and compares passing faces to those on the card. Through bluetooth technology, the cane alerts the user via a speaker or earbuds and vibrates when the cane “sees” someone they know. The cane also has a GPS to help with navigation and relays directions to the user through an earpiece to guide them to the target person.

Through interviewing individuals at the Beacon Centre for the Blind in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, the students found that “high-spec technology features were essential requirements for users, as well as the cane needing to be fairly lightweight and easy to use.”

The project received European Regional Development Funding and is part of Living labs application for internationalization of start-up companies (LILA), a European project devoted to “involving citizens as early adopters in a co-design process to validate & adapt products and services across targeted regional markets.”

XploR has already been presented to medical and science professionals, and will soon be tested at the Beacon Centre.