When Alex Deans was 12 years old, he watched a blind woman attempt to navigate a busy street with a walking stick. Seeing her struggle across a busy intersection with a visual impairment sparked Deans’ imagination.
After pulling the woman aside and speaking to her about improvements that could benefit the woman, Deans went to work designing a walking aid that would revolutionise the way people with visual impairments function.
Starting from scratch, Alex taught himself to program and code, eventually finding inspiration in nature.
After five years of tweaking and reworking his design, Alex emerged with the iAid.
The iAid is a belt with four sensors attached to a small joystick. The sensors, when used inside, operate by navigating sound waves that bounce off objects. The sensors then communicate with the joystick which moves in the direction the user should go, allowing the use of a cane to become seemingly redundant.
When used outside, the gear stick operates as a wireless receptor, using a cloud service to send and receive information from GPS, Bluetooth and Google Maps.
The device, which has been tested by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, has received incredibly positive feedback, with Alex being named one of Canada’s Future Leaders.
“One of the major things they said was, that the device actually improved their confidence in navigation,” Alex said in an interview with Canada AM.
He is continuing to work on the prototype and plans to have it ready for the market in two years.