WeWALK Smart Cane: the review of the cane for the visually impaired
What better day to tell you about the WeWALK revolutionary cane for the blind and visually impaired if not today, October 15th. In fact, today is the International Day of the White Cane, created to sensitize the population to all the problems faced by the blind and partially sighted. Every day they face difficulties and obstacles of all kinds.
The white stick is celebrating its birthday
The white cane turns 100 today. A century in which no change has unfortunately occurred, from a technological point of view for the famous aid symbol of independence for the more than 253 million people with vision problems who use it to get around. Fortunately, a blow to the head of Kursat Ceylan, co-founder of WeWALK, gave one tech breakthrough to the world of those who do not see.
The WeWALK walking stick for the visually impaired
So today let’s talk about WeWALK, a smart handle to apply to the classic cane for the blind and visually impaired, to be helped in daily mobility, in the detection of suspended obstacles and to be guided to places of interest thanks to the App that completes everything.
We discovered it thanks to Amazon Launchpad, the Amazon program that showcases the best startup products and has already helped over 2000 to emerge. In fact, every year Amazon announces the Amazon Launchpad Innovations Awards competition, giving away the greedy prize of € 100,000 to be used to implement, promote and produce the winning product. The 2021 edition sees many interesting products, only one is the Italian finalist we interviewed some time ago.
Who won the 2021 edition? Obviously, WeWALK Smart Cane, the revolutionary cane that helps people with visual impairments to overcome the limit of mobility.
How was WeWALK born?
The WeWALK story begins with Kursat Ceylan, blind from birth. He was crossing New York to speak at the United Nations convention for the rights of people with disabilities, on the way from the airport / hotel between suitcases, telephone and the traditional cane for the blind hit a pole. And from that blow he began to wonder what it would be like to have a stick with which to manage the phone, to be guided to the desired place through voice instructions, to receive tactile feedback when you are near obstacles?
WeWALK adapts to any stick for Czechs, just apply the electronic part, which is in the handle to the folding part of the classic white cane. It came to us with its stem included, always foldable, but with a non-spherical tip. Instead of the classic sphere that rotates 360 °, a cylinder is mounted that rotates only horizontally, a bit inconvenient if the surface on which it slides is not perfect.
L‘handle is conical in shape, in the lower part we find the sensor that detects suspended obstacles, the ignition button and the auditory and visual signal. The upper part, on the other hand, where everything is held, sends vibrations every time the sensor detects obstacles.
Just above is the touchpad to control the phone app without the hindrance of holding the mobile phone. In the most tapered part we find the slot for USB charging and the hole for the lace.
How does the WeWALK stick work?
WeWALK works in an extremely simple way, you just have to give it time to get used to it. It is used like the other sticks for the blind, which however have the limit of detecting only the obstacles that really “collide”. The WeWALK sensor, on the other hand, allows us to detect the signs suspended above our head, avoiding many bumps, considerably increasing the independence and autonomy of visually impaired people. By transmitting a vibration on the handle which stops only when the obstacle is no longer in our “danger range”. Really a big step forward in facilitating the life of those who unfortunately do not see it in the world.
The purpose is therefore to detect obstacles from the belt up, hanging signs, people, tree branches and signal it via vibration, whose intensity is calibrated according to our sensitivity, which stops only when the obstacle is no longer there or we turn off the stick.
Logically we are not obliged to keep the mechanism on, we advise you to turn it off especially in closed places, using it as a “normal” stick. During our test Laura noticed that “if I use it here in the house it vibrates continuously, it’s annoying, I know where the obstacles are and then if I walk a corridor it never stops”. Here, in closed spaces we would avoid keeping it on, unless you want a nice palm massage.
The WeWALK App
L‘application which completes the work of WeWALK is very simple to use and intuitive. Once downloaded and installed it is ready to help you move and locate obstacles.
Key features to set are the size of the characters, the visual preferences of the display text and the range of action of the sensor.
It is equipped with navigator that talks to you through the stick, or headphones if you want to connect them to your smartphone. Once you have entered the destination or a point of interest within a radius of meters that you indicate, it will guide you with your voice to your destination.
What does Laura think?
We asked Laura, who has been visually impaired for more than 10 years, to use it and tell us what she thinks about it. “It’s a wonderful idea, if I had had it before I would have saved myself several branches in my face and several signs in my forehead”. Unfortunately, it is not perfect, but it can improve “after the first 10 minutes of use my arm starts to hurt, the mechanism really weighs a lot, and the handle is not ergonomic and is uncomfortable. Too big, and the hand hurts immediately “.
“The customization of the range and the integrated GPS with voice control that show me the way are cool. I will no longer have to ask for directions, I just need to set the range of action of the obstacle detection sensor and even a walk in the park is no longer an attack, with all those branches, on my safety “
For us it is yes!
In conclusion, for the 100th anniversary of the birth of the most classic stick, we would like to say that it is a great step forward, with today’s technologies it is hoped to make many more in a shorter time. It is certainly a product that can be improved and is in development, but it remains a great ally for those who cannot see.
WeWALK can be found for sale on Amazon at € 629.00, they are not really peanuts, but if they help so much to improve the walking of those who do not see or see little, we think they are money well spent, very well indeed!