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A long cane embedded wireless ranging and collision

warning system for the visually impaired using smart


phone

Abstract

A cost effective and easy-to-use smart-phone based ultrasonic wireless ranging,


and collision warning system that is appropriate to complement the long-cane of the
visually impaired persons is implemented here. This system is intended to increase the
safety and the reliability of the mobility aid of the blind while reducing cost by utilizing
popular wireless technologies as Bluetooth and a smart-phone along with Text-To-
Speech (TTS) features of mobile devices. The system hardware is composed of an
ultrasonic sensor that interfaces to a microcontroller and a Bluetooth transceiver. While
the application software runs on the user’s smart-phone or PDA. The system can
effectively detect the presence of obstacles with accuracy in the centimeter range.

Introduction

The blind long-cane remains the most widely used travel aid among the visually
impaired people, whose number in the world is 45 million, and it is increasing by 7
million each year according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report [1]. Blind
person’s lives and activities are greatly restricted by loss of eyesight, and can only walk
in fixed paths that are necessary to their lives. Currently, blind navigation systems are
divided into indoor and outdoor navigation technologies. Most of indoor navigation
assistances can be classified into basic obstacle avoidance systems and virtual reality
technology.
The obstacle avoidance systems use ultrasonic-based sensor, robotic assistance,
or infrared to detect surrounding obstacles [2]-[4], and translate this information into
acoustical sound to inform the user if a particular direction is blocked. However, these
systems depend on special provided infrastructure such as Radio Frequency Identification
(RFID) tags. On the other hand, some virtual reality technology proposed to assist the
blind walking indoor uses a digital map, which was created by recording the complete
desired indoor space using a camera and processing it on a PC, to simulate the reality
scene. When the blind moves within the space, the position and obstacle information are
obtained using a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) communications standard and a
stereophonic sound is produced to alert the blind. Several outdoor navigation systems
have been proposed [6]-[8].The main technologies include Geographic Information
System (GIS), Global Positioning Satellite system (GPS), radar, ultrasonic, speech and
RFID. Other methods include remotely activated beacon systems that are placed in
complex public facilities, such as airports or government buildings that can be triggered
by a blind traveler who walks nearby [10].
The past developments have provided considerably better technological means for
blind walking assistance, but because of technical and economical barriers, such as the
required infrastructure and high cost, in addition to the psychological and ergonomic
aspects of the blind community, the long cane remains the most widely used and accepted
travel aid of the sight impaired. This can be seen from the widespread utilization of
traditional long canes where it gained symbolic importance within the blind community.
However, long canes leave the users at the risk of sustaining upper body and head
injuries[11]. It had become apparent that the long-cane’s simplicity in low height obstacle
detection could be supplemented by an overhead spatial sensing capability by integrating
an ultrasound ranging system [12]. This would form an effective protection mechanism
for the blind from upper body injuries while maintaining the simple and ergonomic
nature of the long cane. Moreover, mobile (cellular) phones have become a commodity of
widespread adoption, and most current models are Bluetooth-enabled. In fact, mobile
phones have been well accepted by the visually impaired community [13]. This may be
due to the fact that there is no stigma attached to using a mobile phone as opposed to
using other specialized equipment, which may explain its wide spread use as an assistive
technology device by the visually impaired community.

In this project ultrasonic ranging system, Bluetooth and smart-phone based


application software are combined to form a practical obstacle detection system for
integration into a long-cane.

Motivation

Blind and visually impaired people cannot move out nor do their works without
any manual help and guide .they are compelled to depend on other people to do anything
in their daily life. This leads to over dependency on other people which could reduce the
confidence level of those who are visually impaired and blind.

The use of this project is, allows the blind to move independently without any
manual help or guidance. Blind guide is a powerful tool for achieving fuller societal
inclusion for those who are living with vision loss and blindness to move freely, safely
and independently.

Objectives
The primary goal of this project is to develop a system to provide safety to the
blind and visually impaired people so that the person can reach his destination safely.

Blind guide aims to foster confidence and participation, enabling the blind and
visually impaired to live as active and independent as possible.
System concept

The proposed wireless ultrasonic ranging system for the blind-long cane is shown in
Figure 1. The integrated ultrasonic ranging unit is affixed to the blind long cane at a
predetermined location and angle appropriate to the visually impaired person height and handle
grip pattern. The system can be operated in a continuous detection mode, or activated by the
(blind) user upon command. The particular desired ranging distance depends on the sensor itself
and the environmental conditions that it is operated under. When an obstacle is within the range
of the ultrasonic sensor, the distance is determined and reported to the smart-phone from the
integrated electronic unit that includes the microcontroller and a Bluetooth transceiver in
addition to the ultrasonic sensor. Custom-made application software that runs on the Smartphone
receives the distance measurement via a Bluetooth connection and displays the distance on the
screen of the smart-phone in addition to verbal announcement using the Text-to-Speech option of
the application software. Alternatively, the software can be configured to be in silent mode and
to give a verbal notice (or vibrate) when the obstacle distance is below a preset one chosen by the
user.
Block diagram

The wireless ranging unit is comprised of the ultrasonic sensor, the signal acquisition
module, and the Bluetooth transceiver. The core of the signal acquisition module is a
microcontroller (PIC 16F877) as shown in Figure 2. The microcontroller acquires the amplified
and conditioned signal that represents the distance, and then performs the interface with the
mobile smart-phone using the Bluetooth wireless communication standard.

THE WIRELESS ULTRASONIC RANGING UNIT

A. Ultrasonic Sensor

We have used the UC4000-30GM-IUR2-V15 single unit installation ultrasonic


transducer The principle by which ultrasonic sensors yield measurements is that of evaluating the
time taken for the sound to travel between transmission and reception

B. The Microcontroller

The PIC 16F877 is an 8-bit microcontroller, which has an on-chip eight channel 10-bit
Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC). The amplified and conditioned range signal is fed to
channel-0 of the microcontroller. It is then converted and stored in the PIC16F877 memory as an
8-bit unsigned integer (0-255). Then, sampling of the range signal is performed with a sampling
interval of 250ms (4Hz). After completion of signal acquisition, the microcontroller then
communicates with the Bluetooth transceiver module on its RS232 port to send the samples(s)
continuously.
C. The Bluetooth Transceiver Module

Bluetooth is an industrial specification for wireless Personal Area Networks (PANs) [18].
Bluetooth provides a way to connect and exchange information betweendevices such as
mobile phones, laptops, PCs, printers, digital cameras, and video game consoles over a
secure, globally unlicensed short-range radio frequency.

The set-up for the user (visually impaired) unit is composed of a mobile application
software running on a Motorola Q smart-phone. The application software was developed
using the C# programming language on the Microsoft® Visual Studio in conjunction with
the Windows Mobile 6 software development kit (SDK). This mobile application is capable
of opening a virtual communication serial port of the smart mobile phone, where in this case
it is the Bluetooth driver. The application software takes the received byte from the buffer
and converts the range byte from binary to ASCII. The ASCII value (0 -255) represents a
voltage value in the range (0 – 5 V), which is the input range of the PIC 16F877
microcontroller. The application software will then compute the obstacle range (distance)
from this number and displays it on the screen in meters Also, the software utilizes the Text-
to-Speech (TS) capabilities of the smart-phone to announce the range when it is less than 2.5
meters along with a caution alert and vibration.

Scope of the study

A long cane Embedded wireless ranging and collision warning system is a powerful
tool for achieving full societal inclusion for those who are living with vision loss and
blindness to move freely, safely and independently.