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4 college students team up to devise low-cost navigation stick for visually challenged

Wed, 08/24/2022 - 10:00 -- geeta.nair

Mysuru: To help visually challenged folks, four students of Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering have devised an automated stick for them. It is meant to help visually impaired individuals navigate swiftly, identifying potholes and obstacles while out in crowded places.
The stick is said to be low-cost, reliable and portable.
Smrithi Baliga, a third-year student of electronics and communications engineering department at Vidyavardhaka College, had once been involved in scribe writing for a blind student in an exam. She was intrigued by the problems faced by the blind student while crossing roads on the way to write the exam. With the idea of helping the visually impaired, she teamed up with three classmates — Sapna HM, Shreyas N, and Yogesh Gowda V — for this project.
According to Smrithi, the project was completed in three phases over four months.
The product of this team’s passion was an Internet of Things-based stick with an obstacle and pothole detection system using ultrasonic sensors. The ultrasonic sensor is the main feature of the device as it transmits a sound pulse at high frequency and then measures the time to obtain the sound echo signal to mirror back. Existing smart blind sticks have obstacle-detection and pothole-detection abilities using ultrasonic sensors and digital image processing, respectively, leading to a problem of delay.
The new stick uses ultrasonic sensors for both obstacle and pothole detection, ensuring that the alerts are timely. This project was implemented under the guidance of Chandrashekar M Patil, professor and head of the department of ECE, and Girijamba DL, assistant professor in the department.
“During an interaction with a schoolteacher two years ago, we discussed working on a project to help the visually challenged. When Smrithi discussed with me her concern about the safety of the visually impaired, we eventually came up with the idea of an automated stick for them,” said Sapna. “As we researched for the project, we realised that the stick must be affordable to all, considering the financial constraints that many might have. We found that although image processing could be used, there would be cost constraints and delay in detection. So, we decided to deploy ultrasonic sensors.”
At present, the team is involved in some improvisations to the product, including voice output via Bluetooth, LDR to sense lighting conditions, and RF remote to locate the blind stick itself.


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