New Virtual Torch That Can Help the Blind “See”

/ 3 years ago


University of Cincinnati grad student Luis Favela has created a new type of sensor that could effectivly allow blind people to “see”. Of course they can’t actually see, but this device will allow them to sense their surroundings.

The Enactive Torch, as it is called, sends out infrared signals which enable the user to sense nearby objects. The sensing works thanks to a small buzzer that is attached to the wrist and alerts them if they are about to run into a door frame, wall or whatnot. TechCrunch calls it “a cane on steroids,” and that seems an acurate description.

The ordinary white cane as we know it has worked for centuries, but the smaller and more compact Torch could help users travel rough terrain or the local mall as easy as a seeing person. The prototype of the Enactive Torch is still fairly big, but Luis hopes to shrink it with more experimentation. It currently has a range between four inches and three feet.

“In my research I’ve found that there’s an emotional stigma that people who are visually impaired experience, particularly children,” Favela says. “When you’re a kid in elementary school, you want to blend in and be part of the group. It’s hard to do that when you’re carrying this big, white cane.”


Favela tested his Torch on 27 students by blindfolding them and putting them in an unknown environment. They had no trouble navigating around, move through doors and avoid walls. They were even able to use the Torch to sense objects near their feet. The resulting data was presented at the APA convention in DC.

“When you compare the participants’ judgments with vision, cane and Enactive Torch, there was not a significant difference, meaning that they made the same judgments,” said Favela. “The three modalities are functionally equivalent. People can carry out actions just about to the same degree whether they’re using their vision or their sense of touch. I was really surprised.”

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Colleen Kelley.


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