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 Sci-Tech News Updated 2:55pm EDT August 28, 1997  
 More Sci-Tech News

Robotic White Cane Sees For The Blind

LONDON - U.S. researchers have developed an intelligent white cane that can help blind people spot obstacles blocking their way, New Science magazine said today.

The prototype GuideCane looks like an upright vacuum cleaner, weighs about four kilograms (8.8 pounds) and can see better than the average robot.

Many industrial robots are strong and capable, but almost blind," Johann Borenstein of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, one of the researchers who developed the cane, told the magazine.

The intelligent cane we have created for the blind is the opposite."

The cane uses a built-in computer that intercepts data from sensors that scan the area around it. Every 50 milliseconds it calculates the best route and steers the device in the best direction.

Borenstein said the cane is easier to care for than a guide dog which requires feeding and regular exercise, but admits that at the moment it can only operate on smooth surfaces, doesn't work on stairs and can't recognise overhanging obstacles.

He plans to remedy the problems by inserting upward pointing sensors into the device.

Ultimately, we would like to incorporate a global positioning satellite receiver, so that users could choose a destination, and the GuideCane would steer them along the best course," he said.

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© 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without Reuters prior written consent. Contact Reuters

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