Fujitsu GPS cane at MWC 2013. With presenter water bottle, bottom right. (via Fujitsu & CNET)
Here’s a foreshadowing snapshot of how our tech generation will get around when we are in our later years. Fujitsu has unveiled its prototype of a souped-up walking cane jam packed full of gadgets that could help an elder, a person with disabilities or hiker get around safely and independently while having the option for support from far away family and friends. This new generation cane has GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even cellular radio to pick up directions remotely, which could be of great use for many users.
The devices was introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Madrid and consists of a glossy, futuristic cane that has an elliptical handle, which on top, holds an array of multi-color LEDs. With simple pictograms, like green arrows to move forward or a red flashing exclamation mark to indicate turns, the cane leads you to your preprogrammed destination.
The directions can be set by sending them from your cell phone, through Wi-Fi and for people who are not near any of these devices; they can be set by a friend or family member remotely using the onboard cellular radio receiver. The cane can also track movements so you can map a new hiking route or make sure you’re following the fastest route.
Fujitsu GPS cane displaying directions. (via Fujitsu & CNET)
Using the cane, the user can also see the temperature and moisture of their environment. Family and friends can access this information and incase the user gets caught in a precarious environmental situation, family members can send them directions to the nearest public space for rest or refuge from the elements. Further monitoring can be done by using a thumb pad on the head of the cane that reads the beats per minute of the user’s heart. The LED display can also show you Wi-Fi connectivity and battery life.
The glossiness, while giving the cane an elegant finish, promotes glare, which may make it difficult to read the LED display on a sunny day. In addition, the battery life is currently only about 2 to 3 hours on a single charge, which may leave a dependent user stranded by midday. Again, this device is only a working prototype and surely Fujitsu will look into these issues if or when it is ever made available.
The New Generation Cane, as it is being called, may really be suited for our tech-savvy generation that has lost the map navigation skills and relies on GPS to guide us around. No word yet on when it will be sold, if ever, but lets hope its available by the time we are old.