Blindspot is a smart white cane that helps visually handicapped people to take on an active role in socializing and venture into places that they do not dared to explore previously. It informs them of a friend or family member nearby and helps to actively meet them. The location of their friends can be abstracted from popular geographical-based social apps such as Foursquare and communicated through the Bluetooth earpiece connected to the cane. Having known that a friend is nearby, they can choose to call them with the earpiece or be guided towards their friends. Their friend's location can be guided by a tactile GPS navigator on the cane handle. It is a horizontally rolling ball that points to the exact direction to walk. Additionally, an in-built ultrasonic sensor helps detect hanging objects and gives forewarning of ground obstacles to the user. This allows visually handicapped people to confidently travel out of their comfort zone and be aware of people they know being around them.
I experienced missing a friend boarding the same bus as I was resting due to motion sickness. It triggered me that visually handicapped people are unable to actively say "Hi!" first to their friends. Picture them walking down a busy street and a friend just missed them as they are busy meddling their smart phones; they never knew that they have walked on the same street. I was inspired to design something for them that focus on their desires and needs and not just on their handicap. Things like entertainment, social needs, sharing of information, these are so easily accessible with technology but not to them. Several user interviews were conducted to understand what they need and desire. The proposal of being informed that their friend is near them and being guided to the friend got them really excited on the possibilities. One stated: "My mother can leave me to shop while I have some coffee. When I’m done I can find her myself. She doesn't have to keep looking out for me."
The main challenges of the design are integrating it into lives of visually handicapped people and finding appropriate feedback and interaction for the different functions. A more direct way of indicating the direction of turn than audio would be to point. Tactile pointing system on the white cane handle was designed to feel the pointed direction. The white cane has a limitation of being unable to detect hanging objects. The ultrasonic sensor was used to detect those hanging objects as it is more appropriate for outdoors than infra-red sensor. Through interviews, visually handicapped people prefer to carry fewer devices as they already have a white cane. Thus the proposed solution was to be integrative into the white cane. The location of people can be known through apps used currently. The optical track button was used for its one button navigating ability. The form of the white cane was designed to be friendly and indicative of the different functions through physical indentions.