According to the National Federation of the Blind, there are as many as 10 million individuals in the US along who are blind or visually impaired. Unfortunately many of these individuals have to rely on standard canes as their sole source of finding their way around. A Boston-based startup is looking to inject some innovation into the arena with a wearable designed to help the blind navigate their surroundings with more precision and confidence.
The device is called Sunu band and it is the world’s first fully accessible wearable that uses sonar and echolocation technology with precision haptic feedback to augment awareness, perception, and independence.
Sunu band works by emitting a high-frequency ultrasound wave that bounces off objects around the wearer. By measuring the strength of the reflection, it produces a vibration that is stronger or weaker depending on the distance of the object.
Sunu band augments awareness of the user’s personal space, reduces unwanted accidents and ultimately improves confidence while providing a more fluid and enjoyable mobility. Users of Sunu Band wear it in conjunction with the cane or guide dog to augment awareness and complement mobility by detecting obstacles to the body and head in way that’s discreet and unobtrusive.
The wearable connects to a companion iPhone app via Bluetooth, which enables users to adjust settings such as feedback intensity, and also track battery life. Generally users can expect to get a day or two out of normal usage, although the battery is designed to last for only four hours of continuous operation. It’s worth noting that unlike many other wearables on the market, Sunu doesn’t require a connection to the companion smartphone app.
In the future, the company plans to add controls to account for wearer’s movement speed, along with adding integrations to Google Maps to help guide users to specific dimensions.
Those interested in Sunu band can place a pre-order request via the company website for $249.99, which is almost 25 percent off the retail price of $299. Each purchase includes a 15 day satisfaction guarantee. Although the company previously had a crowdfunding campaign for the wearable, they only raised $21,000 towards a $50,000 goal. They did however raise $50,000 in a seed round from MITA Ventures, and they also were recipients of a $50,000 grant from an undisclosed party. The makers of Sunu band are also currently participating in the startup incubator Y Combinator.
Fernando Albertorio, the co-founder of Sunu is legally blind himself and is a Techstars alum and former MassChallenge entrepreneur in residence. One of the most notable elements of the device is that he successfully used it to run a 5k race.
“Yes, I do want to show people what our product can do, but I especially want to show what people with disabilities can do,” said Albertorio. “We are intelligent, vital people with lives and careers much like your own, only with some added challenges. I want to make those a little less challenging with products like the Sunu Band.”
For another product similar to Sunu band, you can check out iMerciv’s The Buzzclip.
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