Electronic Travel Aids (ETAs) improve the mobility of visually-impaired persons, but it is not easy to develop an ETA satisfying all the factors needed for reliable object detection, effective notification, and actual usability. In this study, the authors developed an easy-to-use ETA having the function of reliable object detection and its successful feedback to the user by tactile stimulation. Seven ultrasonic sensors facing in different directions detect obstacles in the walking path, while vibrators in the tactile display stimulate the hand according to the distribution of obstacles. The detection of ground drop-offs activates the electromagnetic brakes linked to the rear wheels. To verify the feasibility of the developed ETA in the outdoor environment, walking tests by blind participants were performed, and the evaluation of safety to ground drop-offs was carried out. From the experiment, the feasibility of the developed ETA was shown to be sufficient if the sensor ranges for hanging obstacle detection is improved and learning time is provided for the ETA. Finally, the light-weight and low cost ETA designed and assembled based on the evaluation of the developed ETA is introduced to show the improvement of portability and usability, and is compared with the previously developed ETAs.
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