Climbing to New Heights: A Novel Device for Elevation Detection and Navigation for the Blind

In STEM II, we work on a three month long engineering project in groups on a topic of our choosing. In our groups, we work to solve some kind of problem that people face using assistive technology. Because of this, groups are given the opportunity to work with clients.

Problem Statement

According to WHO, about 253 million people in the world experience some sort of visual impairment, and this number is expected to grow. Many people with a visual impairment identify navigation to be a challenge, specifically navigating uneven terrain with elevation changes. Many existing solutions are either too expensive, lack confidentiality, or do not help with the issue. There exists a need for a simple and affordable system that can assist visually impaired individuals to navigate through terrain with inconsistent elevations.

Design Approach

In our initial planning phase, we had three ideas. This first was a static sensor based system to adapt the environment for a user's navigational purposes. The second was a two sensor cane attachment. And the last was a camera based ankle attachment.

After doing some testing, we found that the camera based model was ideal. This model involves attaching a camera to the user, sending camera images to a machine learning model to identify elevation changes, and then provide a beeping noise to alert the user of an obstacle.


Here is our current prototype. It is a device that can be worn around the neck, and the camera, processing unit, and buzzer are all located in the circle attached to the lanyard. The circle is designed to look like Iron Man's Arc Reactor to provide a stylish touch to the device.

Our Current Prototype