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Echolocation-Based Smartwatch Aids Sightless Steps

Beth Mole - Ars Technica
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August 14, 2017
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Sunu Band - Enhancing navigation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Sunu)

As some Fitbit wearers find amusing ways to skip steps - attaching the devices to hamster balls, ceiling fans, and power tools - a new wrist gadget aims to make sure others never miss one.

The Sunu band smartwatch, designed for people with visual impairments, uses a sonar sensor to detect objects and people within a 15-foot range. When it does, it gently vibrates to alert the wearer, changing intensity as an object or person gets closer. Wearers can also customize the device using an iPhone app via Bluetooth, adjusting for walking speed and to make buzzes stronger or weaker.

Sunu, a company based in Boston and Guadalajara, Mexico, will start shipping the devices for $249 to $299 later this month (plus $50 shipping to the UK).

“I feel much more confident moving around these spaces where normally, instead of walking faster, I’d be like, ‘Uh, where am I going?’” Fernando Albertorio told MIT Technology Review. Albertorio, who is legally blind, co-founded Sunu with two colleagues.

Sunu isn’t the first to come up with such an idea. Some people with visual impairments already use echolocation and tongue-clicks or other noises for spacial awareness and navigation, such as the famous case of Daniel Kish. And other companies have come up with similar wearable devices to detect nearby objects and alert the wearer. There’s also a different type of smartwatch for those with visual impairments, unrelated to mobility, that delivers notifications, messages, and other text in Braille.

But, as MIT Technology Review notes, this new smartwatch is unique in that it could be useful to people along a whole spectrum of visual impairments, from those completely blind to those who just need extra help in some scenarios due to low vision. The National Federation of the Blind reports that as many as 10 million people fall into this spectrum in the US alone.

Read the rest at Ars Technica

  Check out Discapacitados Visuales - The Visually Impaired


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