The idea of a smart cane for the blind came to him by chance. In 2017, the Turkish Kürsat Ceylan, blind from the cradle, had come to New York for a conference and was looking for his hotel.
With one hand he held his cane. With the other, he was holding his mobile in which Google Maps was dictating the route and he was pulling his suitcase. Juggling led him to head butt against a sign. If the myth says that Newton discovered the law of gravity because an apple fell on his head, we would say that an inopportune pole led Ceylan to conceive his original invention idea.
Well, to prevent this kind of accident, it has developed the WeWalk cane, with a sensor that warns of obstacles and connects to a mobile application to guide its user. It also indicates, by loudspeaker or headphones, the nearby transport stops and the bus schedule. The creation has been selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 best inventions of 2019.
"At a time when technology develops very quickly, where we have driverless cars and even talk about flying cars, the blind still clings to a simple stick," he says in his office in building start-ups of Istanbul, a city that is itself an obstacle course. The non-existent or impassable sidewalks because of the holes, potholes, and steps in the least expected places; the overcrowding; hellish traffic; drivers who do not follow the rules of the road; endless distances… "Although in defense of Istanbul", he clarifies, "it must be said that I have not visited a perfect city for the disabled in the 15 countries that I have known. Social awareness on this issue is very recent. But every day I witness how cities are designed with more attention, and Istanbul has improved a lot".
WeWalk is a smart, foldable walking stick. "Unlike a traditional cane, it can detect obstacles that are above the chest and head levels with its ultrasonic sensor," explains Ceylan.
The device has an application for iOS and Android to connect with smartphones via Bluetooth. "Once connected, users can customize their settings and manage third-party app integrations, such as Google Maps," he says.
The user can get instructions, step by step, to get to a place. You can also adjust the distance at which your cane can detect objects through the phone. It vibrates if there is an obstacle, among various functions.
WeWalk has a microphone, speaker, touch panel, ultrasonic sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, Bluetooth chip, microprocessor, rechargeable battery, and vibration motors. The battery lasts for five hours.
The device is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and according to Ceylan; the idea is to add apps that can be integrated into the product.
It will begin to be sold in Turkey in March and will arrive in the United States and the United Kingdom in June. The company is looking for commercial alliances in the world, to also reach Latin America.
Beyond being just a product, WeWalk represents an opportunity for full and equal participation in the world, from socialization to independent living," says its co-founder.