In Hindi language, the word ‘raah’ means path (or pathway). Raah is a smart belt developed by Gursehaj (CAD Designing), Amanjeet Singh and Jasmine Sodhi (Android App), Bhagat Singh (iOS App) and I (Electronics) for the blind people. This belt helps them navigate outdoors on their own. Raah is a smart solution that uses basic sensors and low battery to find navigation path.

The Problem

A blind person knows any obstructing objects in front of him/her but does not know where to go. Either a helper always goes along with him/her or ask for directions all along the way.

Idea

The idea is to embed 8 haptic feedback motors (or LRAs) sandwiched alongside the belt in all 8 directions on a compass along with a driving system which will be inside the belt’s buckle.

This driving system will be a custom designed PCB with following components on it

  • 9 DOF IMU – this will consist of a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and a magnetometer.
  • Low Energy Bluetooth 4.0 – this will be used to connect to phone that has bluetooth and internet connectivity.
  • A micro-controller for interfacing the IMUs and Bluetooth – ATMega328 is a preferred choice.
  • Battery – Minimum requirements are 3.7V with a capacity of 1000mAh
  • LiPo Charger – A charger on board for charging up the battery.

The buckle will have magnets in design so that it makes it easy for the differently-abled people to charge the battery and a button on top of buckle to start or stop navigation.

There is an Android and iOS compatible application that will help the differently-abled to navigate by communicating with device. The app will send the heading direction and corresponding feedback motor will turn on signalling to the user about direction in which he/she needs to turn.

The Communication Flow

  • When the button is pressed it notifies app to start the listen mode where the user says the location he wants to travel to.
  • Once the location is said user’s location is calculated and data is fetched from Google’s Directions API.
  • This returned data is processed step by step along with user’s location and user’s heading direction which is calculated by the IMU in user’s buckle.
  • A single signal is sent from app to the buckle when user needs to change his/her heading direction. This signal is processed by the buckle’s micro-controller which turns on specific haptic motor, notifying user about direction change.
  • When user reaches his/her direction all motors vibrate for a split second notifying arrival.
  • User can press the button twice on his/her belt to stop the navigation.

Notes

  • Since we’re using 9-DOF IMU we can distinguish weather a person is travelling in a vehicle or walking.
  • Cab services such as UBER, Lyft or OLA could be incorporated with this so for long distances which cannot be covered on foot can call a cab for user.
  • In future, navigation for indoor mapped buildings could also be added with help of smart beacons.
  • The belt is detachable and is connected using strong but easy to remove lego connectors. So, it’ll not come off on their own.

Any more suggestions or ideas are welcome 😃. I would love to hear from you all about the idea and it’s implementation.

A creative technologist interested in exploring non-screen based human computer interactions