Could the blind soon be navigating with a smart watch? 2018-08-29T13:01:47+01:00
research and development

Smart watch for the visually impaired

For over a century, we have used sonar as a means of navigation. In 1906, American naval architect Lewis Nixon invented a sonar-type device for detecting icebergs. During the course of World War I, its application was expanded by French Physicist Paul Langévin in the form of the first sonar set, to detect submarines. In the subsequent decades, the use of the technology in all manner of military equipment and consumer products has expanded exponentially.

Introducing the Sunu Band

One area in which the application of sonar would seem particularly helpful – but that has thus far seen comparatively little development – is in helping the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them independently. Enter tech start up Sunu and their Sunu Band, a wrist-worn device that uses a sonar sensor to relay information about immediate obstacles in the wearer’s environment through vibrations.

Sunu cofounder Fernando Albertorio is legally blind. He has been testing and using the Sunu Band in day-to-day life. Technology Review reported his response to the band: “I feel much more confident moving around these spaces where normally, instead of walking faster, I’d be like, ‘Uh, where am I going?’”.

The Sunu Band emits a high-frequency ultrasound wave. As the wave bounces back off nearby objects, the band assesses the strength of the reflection and adjusts the intensity of the vibration feedback accordingly. This allows for the wearer to be alerted to all manner of different structures and even openings or doorways, by sensing the gap between vibrations.

So intuitive is the Sunu Band in fact, that Albertorio has used it for hiking and even running a 5K race. While these are perhaps examples of extreme applications for the device, Sunu intends for the band to also be used by those who simply need extra spatial awareness, whether it’s because they work in low light conditions or take part in activities where extra sensory feedback would provide an advantage.

Taking the first steps to production

In order to further develop the Sunu Band and broaden their company’s reach, Albertorio and his co-founders are taking advantage of a start-up accelerator from Y Combinator, a program that not only invests money but also spends time with new and emerging start-ups to help hone their pitch to investors and make sure that their company is in the best possible shape. An increasing number of start-ups worldwide are taking advantage of services like this, as well as of research and development tax credit, in order obtain the funding needed to bring their ideas to life.

If your business is creating innovative solutions designed to make people’s lives better, like Sunu, and could benefit from an HMRC R&D claim, we can help. At R&D Tax Solutions, we’ve helped our clients recoup thousands in overpaid corporation tax, which they have been able to reinvest in developing their products further. Contact us today to find out more, or use our online R&D tax relief calculator to find out in three minutes how much you could potentially add back to your budget.

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