VISTATM: Visual Impairment Subtle Touch AidTM–a range detection and feedback system for sightless navigation

Bassil Ramadan, Wolfgang Fink, Andres Nuncio Zuniga, Kristena Kay, Nick Powers, Connor Fuhrman, Sunggye Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We devised a low-tech, low-cost, robust, and minimally obtrusive navigational travelling aid to be paired with and bolster standard white cane use for people with visual impairments. The device combines ultrasonic range detection with proportional vibrational output. The navigational aid was devised using a sensing belt equipped with independent ultrasonic sensors for distance measurements. Sensors were mounted using adjustable mobile clips to allow for user variability. The sensing belt was connected to a stimulation belt affixed to the ribcage. The stimulation belt used vibrating motors with vibration proportional to the distance between the belt wearer and surrounding obstacles sensed by corresponding ultrasonic sensors. The device was validated through preliminary testing on blindfolded, but fully sighted, persons and one blind person (all authors) in navigating a novel environment without supplemental aid. Testing sessions varied from 45 to 90 min. In preliminary tests, the devised ultrasonic-sensor-belt and vibration-actuator-equipped belt combination was capable of informing users of surrounding obstacles in real-time while navigating a hallway with several turns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Medical Engineering and Technology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • assistive device
  • sensory prostheses
  • tactile sensation
  • ultrasonic sensors
  • Visually impaired persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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