This sonar band uses vibrations to help blind people navigate with ease
Fernando Albertorio finds a sense of independence in running, and reveled in the sensation when he participated in a 5K in Boston earlier this year.
The race, however, was more than a test of his endurance. It was a case study for the effectiveness of a sonar sensor band by Sunu, a company Albertorio co-founded with two others.
The Sunu Band helps anyone living with impaired vision, like Albertorio, navigate by emitting a high-frequency ultrasound wave that bounces off nearby objects. To alert the wearer of obstacles, the band vibrates, and the stronger the vibration, the closer the object is. Wearers can also point their band-bearing wrist towards an area they want to sense, and the band will vibrate accordingly.
Despite helping Albertorio complete a race and even a hike, the band is meant for daily use and assistance. It’s also connected to an iPhone app via Bluetooth that lets the user control feedback intensity and check its battery life, which lasts about four hours total.
The band can also be switched between an indoor and outdoor mode. When on indoor mode, the band examines your surroundings within an eight-foot range and looks for opening and thresholds. The band has a longer range of 13 feet on outdoor mode and detects obstacles above the knees and up to head level.
Sunu tested its product with organisations such as the National Federation of the Blind and Perkins School for the Blind. Its potential market is large, as well – two million blind people live in the UK and 10 million live in the US.
There are other products, such as the BuzzClip, that use similar technologies to help the blind navigate. Microsoft also recently released Seeing AI, an app for people who are visually impaired. It records what is happening with the smartphone’s camera and relays it to the user with artificial intelligence-created speech.
The Sunu band is currently being offered for a discounted price of $250 (£190), and deliveries begin in August.