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Reports That "Seeing Shoes" Will Replace Walking Sticks And Guide Dogs Might Be Premature
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 22, 2006

HONG KONG--Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University have invented a new device that uses echolocation -- the same technology bats use -- to help blind people navigate without worrying about bumping into obstacles.

The device includes a pair of high-tech shoes, which send out ultrasonic waves that bounce off vertical objects and back to receivers in the shoes. A built-in computer calculates the distances to those obstacles, and then causes the shoe to vibrate to warn the wearer that the objects are near, with the intensity of the vibration increasing as the wearer gets closer to the objects.

A built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) will also tell wearers where they are and announce directions.

News stories have applauded the invention, saying it would do away with the need for white walking sticks or canes and guide dogs.

As in other cases where technology has been touted as a way to eliminate problems associated with disability, some blind people are not so quick to jump to burying their canes or firing their guide dogs.

For example, Chow Wing-Cheung told the Sunday Morning Post, "There are so many bumps in Hong Kong's road. If I wear the shoes I will end up shaking and vibrating all day."

Related:
"'Seeing shoes' stomp out need for white canes" (Cosmos)

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/559
"'Seeing shoes' threaten guide dogs' jobs" (China Daily)
http://english.people.com.cn/200608/07/eng20060807_290459.html

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