Shimla: “It’s the cane that meets more than the eye,” said 18-year-old blind student Bhupesh. He has been using the battery-operated IIT-Delhi developed smart cane for the past four days while trudging over the hills of this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort.
“Often, we get injuries while using the white cane as it does not give signal of any object above knee height that comes in front of you. Now, with this smart stick you can get signal of any obstruction that is up to three metres,” he said.
The trials of this smart stick, developed by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi, is on these days in the town. For this, Umang Foundation, a local NGO working for the blind, has shortlisted six blind students, including three girls, to conduct trials for the first time in the hills.
“As the visually challenged face bigger challenges in the mountainous region, we are conducting trials of the device in Shimla with the help of a team of IIT-Delhi and NGO Saksham of Delhi,” said Umang Foundation head Ajai Srivastava.
He said the smart cane has already undergone trials in Delhi, Chennai, Dehradun and Ahmedabad.
“Since the requirements of the user in the hilly terrain are different than in the plains, the results of the trials here would help in modifying the device to meet the specific requirements of the blind living in hilly region,” he added.
After acquainting the six visually challenged for four days in Shimla with the smart cane, the team of IIT-Delhi and Saksham will again come here after a fortnight to get the feedback.
Visually challenged Yogesh Taneja, who was here and working on the project to develop the smart cane, said: “The cane will alert the users about the cliffs and gorges in the hills.”
IIT’s Madan Verma, who was also here, said the smart cane would replace the white cane. “The trials of sensor-equipped cane are quite successful about (detecting) a lump or bump that is in the footpath or road.”
He said that in Europe, a smart cane costs over Rs.100,000. “But in India we are trying to develop an affordable one. It will cost around Rs.2,000. The white cane in the country generally costs not more than Rs.200,” Verma said.
As per 2001 census, Himachal Pradesh has over 64,000 visually challenged people.