back to article Samsung puts ultrasonic echolocation cover on a smartphone for the blind

The visually impaired will be able to use their smartphones to see for them, using an ultrasonic case Samsung has made for its low-end Galaxy Core Advance handset. Samsung ultrasound cover The machine that goes ping The Samsung Ultrasonic Cover pings a signal much like a bat and uses the reflection to identify objects …


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  1. stucs201

    I don't think those who can't see will mind that its not for big screens... fact wouldn't it be an even better idea if it worked with a phone with tacticle physical buttons, instead of a (to someone who can't see) featureless expanse of glass.

    (before anyone suggests that partially sighted people might benefit from a larger screen even if they can't see it well - this is for people with eyesight bad enough they need to be told about obstructions 2m away, so I don't think they're going to be reading any phone screen regardless of its size).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I don't think those who can't see will mind that its not for big screens...

      Very few blind people can't see at all. Total blindness is incredibly rare.

      Admittedly there are also a lot of people with so little functional vision, that a touch screen would be of no practical use. But there are many conditions where a white cane or guide dog would be appropriate, but where people could still use large prompts on a screen. Or even read some text (if large enough).

      Plus there are also plenty of totally blind people who use touch screen phones. Everything is hard when you're blind, so they just get used to dealing with it. I think the high cost and relatively low speed of development of the specialist kit, tempts them to use the mainstream stuff. So the RNIB recomment (or used to) the iPhone, and people get used to being very disclipline as to moving their fingers to select icons (which they've placed so know the layout of) - and using the audio feedback.

  2. Old Handle

    I'm curious why echolocation was a good tool for this. I would have thought a second camera (so it could see in stereo) would be the way to go.

    1. Paul E

      One would assume that its because the echo location method is more reliable. Stereo cameras are not going to stop you walking into a glass door for example.

  3. malle-herbert

    Looks like...

    Someone has been watching too many batman movies...

  4. David Pollard

    Let's hope ...

    ... that Apple don't try to block this with patents.

    1. Adam Foxton

      Re: Let's hope ...

      They sort of already have, by owning a better sensor.

      Apple bought Prime Sense, who made the Kinect sensor for MS. This could be shrunk and incorporated into a phone's hardware (especially something the size of a Note) to give a mobile device with a phenomenal 3D camera. So you could not only take selfies but cut out anyone behind you based on depth. Or 3D scan something and pack it off to a 3D print shop to have a basic copy made.

      With the right software it also does object recognition pretty well, certainly better than a low-powered sonar could, and that puts it in competition with this doohickey here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's hope ...

        Kinect wouldn't work out and about.. especially with bright sunlight so no....

  5. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    This is great! So are iBeacons but NOT for shopping.

    It's good to see Samsung remembering the members of society who struggle, daily, as they make it through their days.

    Over the recent Lunar vacation a friend was 'dumpster diving' in a tech park and came across a dumpster that was filled with TP-Link WiFi modems - too cheap to fix and to expensive to return to factory. Half-a-day later and many beers we transferred possession to my company office.

    We have managed to get many basically functional, sufficient for our needs which are as a WiFi transmitter which can send out a code and a 30-second message intended to advise sight-challenged people where they are, or near a shop or facility.

    Then came iBeacon.

    Regardless of whether WiFi or Bluetooth - they can both perform the function of notification. With the now ubiquitous intelligent cell handset these limited distance signals can trigger a very simple App that shakes the cell handsets 'booty' and then annunciates the message.

    We aren't too swift with pretty looking UI but who needs that when they can't see the screen!

    The pre-amble code is used to identify the signal as a guide rather than an advert and could, with work on the App make announcements based on a database within the cell handset. This database can contain messages in alternate languages using only the transmitted code.

    We have forty-three out now, all solar powered.

    Mounting them is a breeze. With a store owners permission, we simply put a 'splodge' of construction adhesive on the rear of the case and, using a modified squeegee mop, affix it on the building high enough to make it impossible for some thieving b*stard to steal. They can be removed by using the butchered squeegee mop to loosen the glue.

    We have also been able to purchase Bluetooth transmitters that have failed specification tests but basically just work for around 50 cents each, but they lack cases.

    Thanks, industry folks who want to go nameless, for your support, schematics and repair tips!

    Could you do this in YOUR community?

    1. Adam Foxton

      Re: This is great! So are iBeacons but NOT for shopping.

      Excellent idea, I did a similar thing a few years ago with WinMo and a Bluetooth SPP thing plugged into a microcontroller. Didnt get to mount it to a building, though.

      But why not use QR codes? They're weatherproof, require no power, the sensors are available on even 10-year-old phones, and (more importantly) they can be used to calculate your inclination, range and bearing relative to them (and, with a bit of maths, relative to the shop door, allowing then to guide someone into the doorway). So they can be a useful addition to GPS in urban canyon environments.

      1. JaitcH

        Re: This is great! So are iBeacons but NOT for shopping.

        Our idea was that a totally sight-challenged user (or a tester wearing a blacked out pair of goggles) could find their way around without having to 'hunt' for a responder (beacon). Additionally, the idea has to work in low light/no light conditions.

        Luckily VietNam has a surplus of sunshine, at least in the south, so power is not a problem.

        Lighting (street) IS a problem since our average day is from 06.00H-18.00H, plus/minus 30 minutes seasonal variations. To reduce power consumption many authorities only turn lighting on when it is actually dark (not dusk) and start reducing it around 22.30H (a common bedtime for anywhere outside large tourist areas) and the lights frequently are totally extinguished around 01.00H in the sticks.

        Conveniences taken for granted in the West - sloping corners for wheelchairs, pavement surfaces providing different textures to indicate guidance, etc. - are totally absent here. Sight-challenged people using canes are best served walking in the roadway as they can use the kerb as a reference - the sidewalks are filled with parked motorcycles and vendors carts.

        What really kick-started me on this idea was a very, very, courageous sight-challenged 22-year old girl who toured VietNam completely alone and unaided from Ha Noi through to Ho Chi Minh City. Over dinner she described the added challenges of people such as her in developing countries such as Cambodia, Laos and VietNam. They were daunting and yet she managed to overcome them all. Alone and unaided.

        This weekend we placed another 23 Beacons - 11 were in common use public facilities - so, hopefully, in a few months time we can show our very conservative officialdom what can be done to help fellow citizens. With official blessing it would mean we could freely attach Beacons to public buildings and property. We have numerous Community Police Stations, real Cop Shops, and these would be a secondary target for our attention.

        Thanks for your interest.

  6. DropBear

    In totally unrelated news...

    ...there are reports of canine-related incidents and attacks around and involving sight-impaired persons being inexplicably on the rise. Victims also mention a strange immunity to mosquito bites...

  7. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

    "Sadly, these innovative aids are only available for the Galaxy Core Advance, not for Samsung's more popular high-end smartphones, particularly those with larger screens."

    Many people who can use this could not give a flyink f***k about the screen - think about it.

    Well done Samsung

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      On the other hand, many others could. And for them, a bigger screen is likely to be better than a smaller one - also for obvious reasons.

  8. ratfox Silver badge

    Hey guys, I was just kidding

    When I said that phones should warn the user from incoming lampposts, it was a joke!

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