Working for People with Sight Loss

Labs Product Reviews – UltraCane, an electronic white cane for the blind

person holding handle of grey and black UltraCane

In the latest of our Technology Product Reviews, Joe Lonergan in the NCBI Labs team provides us with an insight into the UltraCane, an electronic mobility aid for use by people with sight loss.

Item Name: UltraCane
Reviewed by: Joe Lonergan

Description

The UltraCane is a primary mobility aid that is used by blind and visually impaired to help them navigate objects using narrow beam technology. It can help locate obstacles at head and chest level as well as at ground level with a choice of 2 or 4 metre options. It omits ultra-sonic waves from two sensors and gives feedback to the user through two vibrating buttons on the handle of the cane where you place your thumb.

Unboxing / What are my first impressions of the item?

I was excited to start using the UltraCane, but I found it a bit bulky at first and hard to get used to. The vibration was a little strong, but it was ok after using it for a while. The roller head is a bit big for my liking but this might suit others.

I have been using this for a few days, how do I feel about it?

After using it for a few days I got used to the extra weight of the cane and found it gave me a bit more confidence while walking. It gave me a heads up about overhead obstacles which really helped. But on rare occasions this did not work. I decided to slow down a little when walking which helped and I was then able to react better to the vibration feedback from the handle.

Is it accessible?

Yes, it is fully accessible.

What did I like?

  • I liked getting vibrations about obstacles as I approached them especially overhead obstacles.
  • It gave me extra confidence. It is a straightforward product; there are no extra apps or earphones needed when using it.
  • You do not need to be technical to use the product.
  • It has two detection levels, two metres and four metres and these can be changed at a flick of a slider switch on the handle of the cane.

What didn’t I like?

  • It is heavier than a normal cane and it can cause a slight wrist strain when used for a long period.
  • I found the vibration a bit strong, and it also made a vibration noise which some may find irritating.
  • The large roller tip did not suit me, but future models will have a smaller roller tip as a choice.
  • The price is prohibitive for some people.

Did it meet my expectations?

It met my expectations. On the odd occasion it did not detect something for reasons unknown I found that disappointing. But various situations have to be factored in such as size of the object and the weather such as the wind moving where light branches may be hard to detect.

What improvements, if any, would I like to see in this product?

I would hope in the future canes like this can become lighter. With products like this battery improvements are always welcome, but I did not suffer in that department as I only used the cane for about 1 hour per day. I would also like to see some options as regards to the intensity of the vibration under your thumb. I will remind people that this is only a mobility aid and will not replace your mobility skills but will add confidence to your already learned skills.

Would I recommend this item to others?

Yes though I will remind people that this is only a mobility aid and will not replace your mobility skills but will add confidence to your already learned skills.

Is there other/competing technology you have tried, similar to this item?

No I have not tried another device similar to the UltraCane.