Stuart Beveridge, Assistive Technology Trainer
I’ve never been a confident cane user. I’m on my second guide dog and I’ve managed to get 17 years and counting out of two wonderful animals and companions.
I’ve always been interested in GPS and obstacle detection devices alongside my guide dog. I also use a NaviBelt and a Sunu Band, and I’ve also used a standard cane and Ultracane in the past. Unless my guide dog is free running, or if I’m in the building at work, I don’t pick up my cane.
But if my guide dog takes ill, I’m stuck and back to being dependent on others for my independence and it’s really not where I want to be anymore. Now, I find that my confidence is gradually increasing when I don’t have my guide dog because of the WeWalk Smartcane.
I’m a smartphone user so it goes hand in hand with my iPhone. This device is jam-packed with different features. The lower part of the cane operates as a traditional cane, but the WeWalk can pick up on obstacles above waist level. You’ll feel a vibration on the handle to let you know there’s something coming up at chest or head height.
It can be connected to your smartphone using the WeWalk app, which is free to download for Apple and Android. It’s fully accessible and has a number of low vision features. When it’s connected, you get a very comprehensive turn-by-turn GPS navigation system when you’re out and about. You can save your favourite locations or search for nearby places or points of interest.
Interestingly, when the cane is connected to your smartphone, you can find your cane via the app. How many of us have left our cane lying around and can’t remember where it is! I know I’ve done this plenty of times. And you can reverse that process, so if you have the smartcane in your hand and can’t find your phone.
The main feature of the cane is a multi-gesture touchpad to fully control all of the features using familiar swipe and double tap gestures. There are plans to introduce voice control in the future, but that is still at development stage. Once the phone is connected to the app, you put the phone away and use the touch pad on the cane! I have been thoroughly enjoying testing it over the last few weeks and I’m really starting to see the benefits of it.