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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Philip Jones says
Pretty cool. I like the innovation that is used to bring this to the market. If we have creators that are thinking like this all the time, products that come to the industry will be well worth looking into if you have a disability.
Jane Christensen says
Isn’t it quite amazing how far wearable technology has come in the last 5 years? At first, I really think that consumers were just not sure about the watches and things like that, but now they are starting to really take to the benefits they provide. This is just next level.
Quinton Brooks says
I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He has the latest Apple watch and remembers the first Samsung watch that was released. What a difference a few years makes and it really shows you that companies are almost experimenting with products to see “what works” before releasing the one you will have forever.
Jessie Tippett says
Being able to run a 5k race with the help of something like this is very impressive! I wonder if the race was easy for him with the device or if there was still some hiccups along the way.
Anne Wolff says
That would be something else and probably something that would really move this product into the next level compared to some of the others that are used by the blind and such.
Caroline Barrett says
I really like the idea and the technology behind something like this, but I see the campaign is not getting funded very quickly and I wonder why. Do others see something that I do not?
Constance Olson says
How is the app helpful to a person that cannot see?
Henry Stinson says
I am guessing there are all sorts of vibes and sounds that are being used?
Alton Sweatt says
There is a lot that a blind person can actually still “see”. I am sure the app is well worth it as a companion app, but like the story mentioned, the app is not required for the band to work.
Tamara White says
Just sitting back and giving this a read, I really think the product is great. The overall design was planned out perfectly and the features are well worth it for a blind person. If I had to make one of these myself, I would imagine it just like this one.
Kathleen Vaccaro says
Wow. I was just really getting sick of all the wearables on the market being the “same”. The Sanu really opens up the doors here and makes just about anything possible, wouldn’t you say?
Amy Munroe says
There is a lot that can be done with sensors, so it is nice to see this company move that direction.