Introducing the Revolutionary Smart Cane WeWALK

App Developer

Hello everyone,

We are a non-profit organization called YGA and centered in London and Istanbul. Our main focus area is to develop innovative Technologies for the blind. We are currently developing a smart cane for the blind called WeWalk. WeWalk has three main features:

  1. It will be able to detect obstacles that are above the chest and head levels through its ultrasonic sensor.
  2. Smartphone integration. blind people will be able to control their smartphones via WeWALK’s touchpad and be able to receive turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation via WeWALK.
  3. WeWALK is open platform, meaning that WeWALK will be able to gain new features with integrations such as Uber, Lyft, and Amazon Alexa

WeWALK Demo

Beyond being just a product, WeWALK is a social platform and a movement which unites all blind people in the world, creates awareness in society, and fosters accessibility, social inclusion, more and equal participation in social life.

Within this scope, YGA has initiated a fundraising project on the Indiegogo platform. You can pre-order the smart cane WeWALK today for yourself or a loved one by contributing to the project or get more information about it. Join the movement! Let's WeWALK Together!

What is YGA?

YGA is a non-profit organization centered in London and Istanbul, and our main focus area is to develop innovative Technologies for the blind. Our previous projects include indoor navigation for the blind in shopping malls, which made 30 shopping malls, 12 cities and more than 2.000.000 square meters accessible for the blind. In addition, with our "audio description in movie theatres" project, blind people are able to get audio description for over 100 movies by using their smartphones in their preferred choice of theatre. Also, YGA’s method of developing these projects is reviewed as a case study at Harvard Business Review. You can read it below: https://hbr.org/product/young-guru-academy-culture-and-the-return-on-investment/B5914-PDF-ENG

For further questions and comments, please send an email to wewalk@yga.org.tr

Forum: 

#1 Why the technology integration?

The purpose of a cane is to provide feedback about obstacles within the user's immediate path of travel, and I think that your goal of providing information about objects that would not normally be detectable by a cane is very interesting because although there are already devices on the market that can perform this task, providing this functionality through just one device could be potentially liberating for some people who may not use a secondary device. Exactly how the user would receive the information is another question, but I'm sure you can figure that out.

Now to my question: why the technology integration? As I've stated, you are filling a gap in the market by providing additional information to the user about objects in their immediate path of travel, so why do you need to do more than that? If a user wants to get directions through Google Maps or to use a ridesharing service, they will still need to have a smartphone. Is there a compelling reason why they would want to use your product rather than the smartphone's touchscreen to perform these tasks? If your response is that smartphone touchscreens can be difficult for some blind people to use, I respond that there are already inexpensive secondary devices on the market that can replicate a VoiceOver user's experience of using a touchscreen by using a physical keypad to control the device. If you respond that the user does not need to move their hands away from the cane itself to perform the task, I would say that people will become easily distracted--it's no better than sighted people looking at the screens of their phones whilst they are walking. I don't think Alexa can assist with mobility at the moment, and if I am correct that it doesn't, implementing a feature that may not exist at the time of the cane's release sounds rather risky to me.

With all of these bells and whistles, I think you also need to think about how heavy the cane will be, and how easy it will be to grip.

I know some people will really want this product, but don't expect thousands of people with vision impairment to be pre-ordering this product.

#2 I completely agree with you

App Developer

I completely agree with you regarding additional features, the big lack of electronic systems today is that they are not able to detect the obstacle perfectly.
I tried to play with ultrasonic sensors and found that there are some interferences where there are many different obstacles.
Instead of adding additional not primarly features I wanted to suggest to use different technologies as LIDAR or webcam that use deep learning algorithms to detect and understand the obstacles around us.
Kind regards.

#3 Not everything is available in Sweden

While it seems a good idea to integrate different technologies into the cane, there's one question and one warning i want to issue: How practical will this cane be? I mean if there are laser sensors to detect obstacles and possibly other thingimabobs in there, they might add to the canes heavyness thus making it impractical to use. I for one wouldn't want to go around with a hitech gizmo filled with all kinds of technology but so heavy i can barely move it.
And now the warning: While having lots of technology and online services and whatnot in the same place, be aware that not many of those services are available outside what i call "the countries that count", meaning the USA, England, Germany, France, Italy, China and possibly even Korea and Japan. For example, Not all google services are available in Scandinavia. The google assistant is an example of this and Amazon in its entirety is not available here and probably never will be so if you plan on releasing the cane in Scandinavia you should be aware that many of the features you want to place inside it won't be accessible to us or they will be very, very limited.

#4 donating a cane question

Hello,After reading through the listing on your website, I am just curious about one thing. It says that we can donate old canes. If we do this, does that mean we will receive one of these new canes as a replacement? Sorry for the confusion. Best,Keenan

#5 WeWalk cane - very interested in project

Hello,
just to say I am very interested in the project.
I invite the developer to correct me if necessary, but I'd like to answer to person who asked "why technology / smartphone integration"
Well, as far as I understood, this cane has a sort of touchpad, which is implemented in order to control smartphone with free hands - or, better, controlling smartphone from the cane instead of occupying the second hand, or the only hand if person is partially impaired on hands mobility (my boyfriend is in that condition for example and he uses a normal white cane)
I appreciate the idea, even if I'd also add a mini-speaker, in order to have also free ears, so that it's possible to cross streets safely.
I am from italy and alexa is not (yet) available here, so, I'd propose you to check for google assistant too, but as far as I saw on indiegogo the money goal is still too low and there's not any guarantee of project going on, so, it's not time to ask for questions right now

#6 Thank You

App Developer

We have been looking into new developments in the field of technology, and working to apply those developments to WeWALK as well. The subject of deep learning is one of them, and indeed they should be used to increase the mobility of the visually impaired as you said. We value your comment so much, and thank you for the suggestion.

#7 Practicality and Globalization

App Developer

WeWALK was tested by a community that consists of visually impaired people in all its development phases, and practicality was always one of our high concerns. Since it is a smart cane that is integrated with technology, it is heavier than a usual white cane. Though the weight is not troublesome. When we think of the benefits and advantages that the integrations bring, the extra weight seems to lose its importance.
As of the second part of your comment, we plan WeWALK to be a global movement and to reach as many blind people as possible in the world in order to increase their mobility. While you have a good point about limitations to WeWALK's features, two of its features -obstacle detection and smartphone connection via bluetooth- can work regardless of the user's location, bringing an easier orientation along. For the app integration part, we are and will be doing our best to make all the integrations globally working, at least for things that are in our control.

Thank you for your comment!

#8 Donations

App Developer

To clear everything about donations, through our Indiegogo campaign, we are offering people to buy WeWALK for themselves and/or donate WeWALK to an organization that work in the area of blindness of their own preference to deliver donated WeWALKs to correct people and communities. For this purpose, a post-survey at the end of the campaign will guide them through these organizations. In the survey, if people choose to donate their WeWALK to an organization, the organization will receive the product and be able to distribute it among its own community.

#9 Thank You

App Developer

Yes indeed, your answer is right about smartphone integrations. Before we started developing WeWALK, surveys and interviews were conducted with blind people by blind members of our project team in the field to have the actual insights. One of the main problems of blind people was that while walking, having a white cane in one hand and smartphone in the other plus a headphone to listen to the smartphone usually turn to a juggling process which is hard at best. It is distracting and preventing the person to hold anything else in her/his hands. This is why we have developed WeWALK with smartphone integration and made possible to control the smartphone via using WeWALK's touchpad. WeWALK is also equipped with a speaker to allow its users to control and manage their smartphones without taking the phone out of their pockets.
We plan WeWALK to be a global movement, for this purpose, we are doing our best to add integrations that can work globally as well.
As for the Indiegogo side, we have launched the campaign just a few days ago and everything seems to be going well at this moment. Your valuable support is of course very important to spread the word about WeWALK in order to create a more accessible world for the visually impaired.

#10 Cost of this came

How much will this cost to a person in the United States?

#11 Smartphone Integrations and Alexa

App Developer

You are asking great questions, we have answered them below:
Before we started to develop WeWalk, we had had an important insight that we had acquired from our previous projects for visually impaired. It appears that visually impaired people are satisfied of using white cane and they do not want to give up white cane’s flexibility to provide tactile information about the ground. For this reason, instead of developing other alternatives such as a smart bracelet or a smart glass, we chose to improve the white cane, a tool which visually impaired people already use.
At this point, we have another insight that shows smartphones make the lives of visually impaired people easier. However, while walking, having a white cane in one hand and smartphone in the other plus a headphone to listen to the smartphone usually turn to a juggling process which is hard at best. For this reason, we specifically focused on WeWalk smartphone integration which was never done before. Holding a smartphone and a white cane at the same time is distracting and preventing the person to hold anything else in her/his hands. This is why we have developed WeWALK with smartphone integration and made possible to control the smartphone via using WeWALK's touchpad. People will still use their smartphones to get GPS directions, but WeWALK will enable people to manage and control their smartphones without taking the phone out of their pockets, therefore, turning the navigation process into an easier and more practical task.
For the Alexa part, We have been looking into new developments in the field of technology, and working to apply those developments to WeWALK as well. Voice assistant apps are one of these subjects, and we believe that when used wisely, these technologies will make life much easier for the visually impaired. Voice assistant apps are becoming more handy day by day, therefore, WeWALK will become handy with them as well. For example, imagine yourself of asking about bus routes and receiving an immediate reply, or asking about restaurants and their menus while having a nice walk outside.

#13 e: Smart Phone Integration

A general comment, though mainly directed at #1: personally, the smart phone integration is one of the things I thinks the most promising and appealing about this product. It sort of falls into the same category of Apple Watch in terms of convenience that, strictly speaking, isn't necessary. There isn't anything stopping me from pulling my phone out and swiping around to do check something out on whatever navigation app I'm using while I walk... But honestly if I could use VO gestures on the grip of my cane and navigate my phone while it's still in my pocket, why wouldn't I want to do this? I honestly think this is the first time I've really been bummed that I don't have $350 to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign because I'd gladly do it if I could, if nothing more than to support this kind of innovation and get the chance to find out how well it is (or isn't) integrated.

#14 Rechargible came

Does it need to be recharge to be able to use the came? How do you recharge it? Do will have a special plan to make monthly payments to get the came? The price is to high for most of the blind people who are getting benefits specially in the USA.

#15 Hello,

App Developer

Hello,

Yes, WeWALK has a rechargeable battery which lasts for about five hours when used continuously. It charges via its micro USB port which is situated at the tip of the handle.

We try to bring down the price as low as possible to make WeWALK an affordable and accessible device for everyone. For this purpose, we are constantly looking out for state of the art technologies and inovating our own solutions. Even though we have no plan of monthly payment options for WeWALK, you can be sure that we always aim to deliver the cheapest product with the latest technology.

#16 Cost is too high

There is no way anyone in the U.S. on SSI can afford this. A lot of what you want to do or are saying can really already be accomplished especially if using a headset such as the Treks Air.

#17 I wish

I wish WeWALK just concentrated on superb obstacle management rather than trying to do too many things. I appreciate that someone is trying to improve a WWII artifact. :)
Thank you WeWALK.

#18 cane tips

Hi. I like this idea!!

I have a question about cane tips. Forgive me if it makes no sense.

Will you be able to use cane tips that you can buy from places like V Tech? And can we use our own preferred tip? For example, I love the fiberglass tips. I guess an argument that might make senie for this is, if there was a censor in the tip.

Also, will it have an option for a folding cane? I love folding canes because they are less cumbersome to store. I don't have to stand it up. If Im in a car, or classroom, or where ever, I could just fold my cane, put it somewhere, and wa la, storage isn't an issue. Not saying regular canes are hard to store, but they are a bit harder than folding canes. Personally, I will never go back to a regular cane if I can help it. Although it does create some moments of panic for my family, because they'll ask where it's at and I'd tell them, it was under my arm or beneath a chair or they'd look and see it.

#19 Hello Dawn,

App Developer

Hello Dawn,

WeWALK is completely foldable from its handle to its tip. In addition, the handle is the part where all the hardware components are located and it is what makes WeWALK weWALK. The handle is removable, meaning you can attach the WeWALK part to your preferred choice of white cane provided that it is compatible.

Since every cane is designed differently, WeWALK will not unfortunately be compatible with all kinds of white canes out there, but you will be able to use WeWALK with the white cane included with it in the box and cylindrical Ambutech canes with an extra screw. We are working for solutions to use WeWALK with every type of white cane in the market in the future, so keep checking with us time to time about this.

#20 Voice assistant services

Will WeWalk be counted as an Alexa device? Not sure what that is, but i did some research here and it looks as Alexa at least the app is available here in Sweden although how limited it is in services i don't know?

#21 contribution and vibrations

Hello, currently I am a bit out of budget so I cannot give a contribution for getting the perk i am interested in (pre-ordering wewalk), - hope it will be available indemand when the campaign expires.
then, I have another question:
are you integrating vibs in the cane? such as a vibration when obstacle detected, or when answering calls, or so.
I'd also suggest a physical button to invoke voice assistants, if not already present.

#22 this is an interesting idea,

this is an interesting idea, I assume its not possible to borrow demonstration units to see how they work in the UK? its a lot of money to spend without having scene or tested the product.
personally I rarely use a smartphone when I am out and about because its just two distracting trying to listen to the phone and use the cane at once. I would like to know though do you have to hold the cane in a strange unnatural way to detect the obstacles? the reason I ask is that I tried the sonar cane a few years back, I think it was called the bat cane but I am not sure. anyway this was about 10 years ago maybe longer, and at the time I had to hold the cane in a very strange way to make sure my fingers were covering the vibrating sensors it really didn't feel natural and I got tired quickly when using the cane.
another question one problem that no cane has solved is a way to detect steps or big drops at ground level so its very much dependent on the users cane skills to locate things, are you working on technologies that might assist with this?

I did try a pair of vibrating glasses that the rnib certainly used to sell a few years back at a technology show but I actually found there vibrations on my head distracted me from important information around me plus they kept bouncing up and down on my head so I never considered getting them.
is the distance at which objects can be detected adjustable or fixed? I think the bat cane could certainly be adjusted to narrow or increase the detection distance.

#23 Regarding Price

To those commenting that this is too expensive for people receiving SSI and a payment option is required...while I can't comment on anyone's specific financial situation, if you're able to make a monthly payment, you should also be able to set that amount aside every month to save up for something. The only difference a monthly payment makes is the ability to get the product right away, rather than having to wait a while as you save.

#24 Wasn't gonna say anything, but...

I wasn't, in fear of being shot, gonna say anything up here about this, just shrug it off, and let it go, but, since someone else was brave enough to second my opinions, I'll say I agree entirely with this first comment. Anyway, enough said by me.

#25 By first comment...

I should clarify... I meant comment #1.

#26 contribution and vibrations

App Developer

Hello Elena Brescacin,

Yes, we are going to have vibration paterns for different tasks on WeWALK.

We do not have a physical button for voice assistance, but we do have a touch gesture to activate WeWALK’s microphone. However, we are forwarding your suggestion to our technical team to be taken into consideration.

Thanks for your comment!

#27 Re: Voice Asisstant Services

App Developer

Hello Krister Ekstrom,

Thank you for your comment.

WeWALK, like other Alexa enabled devices, uses Amazon Alexa Voice Service. We are doing our best to make the features of WeWALK as globally working as possible. However, some features of the Amazon Alexa Service may not work completely due to the availability of Alexa service in a given country.

#28 re: this is an interesting idea

App Developer

Hello Alex Wallis,

We have a testor community that consists of blind and visually impaired people that work at organizations about blindness, which we have official agreements with. We would like to see you in our testor community as well, but unfortunately, we do not provide products to be tested on individual basis. If you are part of an organization that work in the field of blindness, please email us to give more information about yourself and your organization.

In order for the ultrasonic sensor to detect obstacles, the sensor has to be facing upward and WeWALK should be heled accordingly. However, the holding style of the cane differs from one individual to another, so we do not know what is your natural/unnatural way of holding the cane. As stated above, some people may need to change their holding style to be able to adjust to WeWALK.

Regarding your question about detecting steps or big drops, we are developing WeWALK in order to integrate the usual white cane with technology. Thus, users should still have orientation and mobility skills to rely on; WeWALK will only make cane usage easier. So WeWALK’s ultrasonic sensor and obstacle detection feature will help the users, but they should still be using their O&M skills.

The distance at which objects can be detected can be adjusted accordingly with user’s preference by using WeWALK’s smartphone application.

Thank you for your comment!

#29 I am not part of any

I am not part of any blindness specific organization so I guess I will have to wait for the cane to go on sale to be able to try it, as I really don't feel like spending a lot of money on a product without getting to try it first.
the cane is under development I gather, so when do you hope to release it so that it is on sale from third parties and can be scene at events such as sight village etc.
I believe the old bat cane had a dedicated switch for adjusting distance at which objects can be detected, I don't think control of this through the app is ideal, as the environment can change very quickly when you are out, so a user might need to quickly adjust the distance setting and might not be able to easily stop to fiddle with a smartphone app.

#30 Hello Alex Wallis,

App Developer

Hello Alex Wallis,

The cane is indeed under development. After the Indiegogo campaign ends successfully, it will continue to be sold through various different distribution Channels which haven’t been confirmed yet. In addition, with the agreements which we hope to make with blindness specific organizations, we are planning to distribute a certain amount of WeWALKs for free to those who can’t really afford.

There will be a podcast for demonstrating the features of WeWALK and its companion app, and also a field test in which we will show WeWALK’s obstacle detection capabilities. So check with us time to time to be informed about the latest developments. You can also visit our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to see the project updates.

I am passing your suggestion of a dedicated switch for adjusting distance at which objects can be detected to our technical team, thanks for the feedback.

#31 Global movement?

I appreciate your optimism, but manufacturers rarely get a say in whether it is a "Movement". Just a little point of contention for me there.

Generally, sounds like a fairly good idea for some white cane users. Personally, I'm happy to stop and use my phone and have an earpiece in telling me the directions. Changing things on the fly, in my view, is not advised for someone who has to be on full alert in such places as city centres.

Possibly integrating your tech into a wrist based device, IE a larger touch pad on the forearm and worn in the correct orientation for obstacle detection might be more interesting to me... But I really don't think white canes need system wide integration like cars have... Apple cane play.

KISS, a cane is great because it's a stick. I worry that technology integration in such simple designed creates a reliance on such technology. The great thing about a cane? The batteries don't go flat.

Anyway, I always applaud innovation and best of luck to the project, but I'll stick with minimum complexity and, if needed, stop and get Siri to mumble the directions directly into my ear for the local pub.

#32 What I'd wonder

I think that it's a good idea. Where I live people have lo hanging trees or bushes that jut out over the sidewalk. With my guide dog he's good at noticing these things as he should with the training. However, on the days where I feel like taking a cane. I'm usually bumping into the bushes or the trees and it's either duck, hit the telephone pole, or rub up against the bushes and trees and with my allergies I just duck.
I'd wonder how well something like this would work in conjunction with a guide dog. While not the most practical. I've had times where I've used a cane and a guide dog at the same time.
How well would the cane handle rainy weather? Another thing about where I live. Kentucky can be nice one day and then raining the next.
While the ability to connect with Uber, and or Lift is a nice idea. That almost sounds a little over the top like the smart refrigerators with the tablets on the door. It's cool, but I can't see it being used nearly as much. the Google maps idea while nice. I'd wonder how that would be aded and working.
I would personally be interested in seeing something more focused with serious obstacles such as partially opened doors, or the stairwells that don't have anything above or below and the next thing you know your running into the underside of a stairway. While something like this may already exist. I would have more interest towards things like that. I've heard of some laser canes having issues in crowded areas.
Last, some also say that the price is too steep. It is coming from someone who is pretty hard on a white cane when using one. So that's another one of my questions. How well can it hold up against it hitting various obstacles. after all this is what a cane ends up doing?
chuck

#33 Hello Oliver Kennett,

App Developer

Hello Oliver Kennett,

Thank you for your constructive comment. We appreciate every opinion about WeWALK and try to do changes and improvements on it based on feedbacks. Your suggestions are valuable for us, keep them coming!

#34 Hello Chuck Winstead,

App Developer

Hello Chuck Winstead,

Using your guide dog in conjunction with WeWALK would be a similar experience with using a regular white cane, but the features of WeWALK could also enhance user experience with its obstacle detection ability and smart phone integration.

WeWALK has IP20 certificate, so we cannot say that WeWALK is completely waterproof. Like every technological device, we should show extra caution when water comes into equation.

The handle of WeWALK contains all the hardware components and it is user replaceable. How durable it will be largely depends on the white cane that WeWALK is attached to. For the handle, we give one year of warranty. In addition, before preparing WeWALK for mass production,, we put it through extensive quality assurance tests and it has to pass all of them. There are international certificates and its requirements like CE certificate which WeWALK also passes.