BlueCane: A Modern Cane Solution for the Visually Impaired Using Shape Change

Evan Strasnick, Joseph Bolling, Jacob Simon, Xin Yang Yak, Rebecca Fiebrink

Princeton University, 2014.

Navigation in an unfamiliar environment remains a significant challenge for the visually impaired, despite the widespread availability of GPS devices. Audio-based systems can be difficult to hear in various environments, and wearing earphones can detract from the user's ability to listen for important environmental cues. We designed BlueCane, a haptic augmentation to the standard white cane which utilizes shape change to discreetly provide navigation directions. BlueCane communicates via Bluetooth with a GPS-enabled smartphone to give real-time turn-by-turn instructions, in addition to providing an on-demand compass function via built-in magnetometer. We evaluated BlueCane with a number of visually impaired users and discuss the use of shape change as a vehicle for discreet presentation of information.