Blindness and the reliability of downwards sensors to avoid obstacles: A study with the eyecane

Maxime Bleau, Samuel Paré, Ismaël Djerourou, Daniel R. Chebat, Ron Kupers, Maurice Ptito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Vision loss has dramatic repercussions on the quality of life of affected people, particularly with respect to their orientation and mobility. Many devices are available to help blind people to navigate in their environment. The EyeCane is a recently developed electronic travel aid (ETA) that is inexpensive and easy to use, allowing for the detection of obstacles lying ahead within a 2 m range. The goal of this study was to investigate the potential of the EyeCane as a primary aid for spatial navigation. Three groups of participants were recruited: early blind, late blind, and sighted. They were first trained with the EyeCane and then tested in a life-size obstacle course with four obstacles types: cube, door, post, and step. Subjects were requested to cross the corridor while detecting, identifying, and avoiding the obstacles. Each participant had to perform 12 runs with 12 different obstacles configurations. All participants were able to learn quickly to use the EyeCane and successfully complete all trials. Amongst the various obstacles, the step appeared to prove the hardest to detect and resulted in more collisions. Although the EyeCane was effective for detecting obstacles lying ahead, its downward sensor did not reliably detect those on the ground, rendering downward obstacles more hazardous for navigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2700
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2 Apr 2021


  • Avoidance
  • Blindness
  • Collision
  • EyeCane
  • Navigation
  • Obstacle detection
  • Sensory substitution


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