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A blind man cycles with UltraCane

The Minima-designed UltraCane was recently demonstrated on the BBC programme ‘Richard Hammond’s Miracles of Nature.’  The programme aired on 12 November and shows a modified version of the device enabling some amazing unsighted feats.  The showpiece was to enable Dan Smith who lost his sight to Leber’s Optic Neuropathy to successfully navigate a narrow, twisting forest track with the aid of UltraCane feedback.  Similar to the standard product, the handlebars of the bike vibrated to warn of obstacles to the left or right.  Dan commented in a Bristol University interview ‘It’s another example of how technology is making the world more accessible to visually impaired people.’

The UltraCane gives mobility assistance to blind and partially-sighted people by emitting ultrasonic waves, just like the echolocation system used by bats and dolphins.

Dan, a Bristol University Aeronautical Engineering Student was able to complete the route after just a couple of hours training on the bike setup.  He started by using the standard UltraCane to understand how the user feedback worked. 

‘I tried out the UltraCane on a street setting and the benefits of ultrasound technology were immediate. As soon as I realised that the UltraCane was protecting me from bumping into posts or parked cars, my confidence grew. As a blind person it was a great feeling to be able to walk around without feeling nervous.’ Harrogate News

 The programme, the second of the series is available on BBC iPlayer for a week after broadcast. Miracles of Nature is a three-part series in which presenter Richard Hammond investigates the extraordinary super-powers of the animal kingdom and finds out how a multitude of amazing creatures are inspiring inventions at the very forefront of science.

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