Background: Echolocation is a technique whereby the location of objects is determined via reflected sound. Currently, some visually impaired individuals use a form of echolocation to locate objects and to orient themselves. However, this method takes years of practice to accurately utilize.
Objective: This paper describes the development and validation of a miniaturized system that employs ultrasonic signals to allow users to gauge distances and the placement of objects. This solution will let visually impaired individuals overcome the disadvantages of other electronic external signalling devices for echolocation while also being low cost and user friendly.
Methods: The main components of this device are an ultrasound transceiver and a miniaturized Arduino board. Through research and prototyping, this technology was integrated into a wrist-watch form factor which provides feedback to the user regarding the measured distance by the ultrasonic transducer.
Results: We tested the device in different scenarios including different distances from different material. The difference between the device reading and the actual distance, from 0 to 400 cm was statistically insignificant. While the readings at distances below 50.8 cm (20 inches) demonstrated over a 10% true relative error, the error at distances greater than 50 centimetres was approximately 1%.
Conclusion: A functional, wearable, and miniaturized user-friendly ultrasound echolocation prototype device has been successfully developed and tested. It is believed, this device will boost the confidence of the user in navigation.