In a crowded and chaotic country such as ours, for the visually-impaired, travelling is a safety hazard and bumping into obstacles is a dangerous reality. For years visually-impaired people have made use of wooden sticks or canes to aid mobility but the effectiveness of a regular cane is limited as it does not detect obstacles that are above the users’ knee.

To address this problem, IIT Delhi’s Assistive Technologies Group (ASSISTech) conceived the SmartCane - an electronic travel aid which fits on the top fold of the white cane and helps in detecting obstacles above knee-level at a distance ranging from one metre to three metres.

The device was developed jointly with Saksham Trust and Chennai-based Phoenix Medical Systems (responsible for the manufacture), with ₹3-crore funding from Wellcome Trust of the UK.

The battery-operated SmartCane uses ultrasonic ranging to detect objects in its path and generates tactile output in the form of different vibratory patterns. These vibrations calculate the distance of the obstacle, thus enabling the user to negotiate such obstacles from a safe distance. With simple orientation and training, any visually-impaired person, who is a regular user of the white cane, can benefit from SmartCane.

Initially launched in March 2014, the device made its all-India debut on March 21, 2015 at IIT-Madras. The USP of the device is its price – costing ₹3,000, the SmartCane is cheaper than comparable devices in the international market that would cost ₹65,000 and upwards.

The price includes training, which is available in accessible formats on for download to assist users as well as trainers.