Intelligent Cane Uses Infrared Technology

The latest product selected as a Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award recipient – the first to win the award in Europe – was designed to help the visually impaired be more independent. Télétact, created by Paris-based IN3G, is a high-tech accessory for traditional white canes. It uses infrared detection and vibration feedback to identify hazards and obstacles and helps users navigate new environments.

For the visually impaired, the traditional white cane is extremely useful; although, it does have limitations. The new Télétact, however, helps the visually impaired travel more independently, even in unfamiliar environments. Télétact is a small box that easily attaches to a standard white cane. The box emits a harmless infrared beam that is projected horizontally along the ground up to 27 inches ahead of the user. The beam is also projected upward at a 45 degree angle. When the infrared beam strikes an object, the Télétact box sends a vibration through the cane, which increases or decreases according to the proximity of the object.

When IN3G was ready to test and validate the mechanical parts (for example, the opening of the battery cover), achieve a perfect fit, and prepare the tools for injection molding, they turned to Proto Labs. After two rounds of prototypes Proto Labs produced ten molds and delivered one hundred Télétact cases. The final external casing and battery housing is made of black polycarbonate, and designed to protect the infrared light system, the power supply, circuit boards and vibration device.

The ingenuity of the Télétact product – and its unquestionable usefulness for the visually impaired – won over Larry Lukis, founder and CTO of Proto Labs. "We were convinced by the potential and simplicity of the product,” he said. “IN3G has improved upon the white cane and created a device that can help millions of people."

IN3G specializes in research and high-technology for universities and public research organizations. Their research on infrared technology helped them develop the Télétact for a foundation that provides guide dogs and assistance for the visually impaired.

"When the team at Proto Labs France suggested we submit Télétact for the Cool Idea! Award, we didn’t hesitate,” said Roger Leroux, technical manager of IN3G. “We’ve worked with Proto Labs before, so we were very excited about this opportunity. Winning the Cool Idea! Award has allowed us to manufacture enough parts to equip one hundred people with Télétact for real-life tests.”

The Cool Idea! Award is a program created by Proto Labs that offers designers the opportunity to realize innovative products that otherwise would not get funded. In 2012, Proto Labs expanded the program to the European Union and is now offering up to the equivalent of $250,000 in services for prototyping and low volume production. For more information, visit www.protolabs.com/CoolIdea

About Proto LabsProto Labs (PRLB) is a leading online and technology-enabled quick-turn manufacturer of low-volume CNC-machined and injection molded custom parts for prototyping and short-run production. The company provides “Real Parts, Really Fast” to product developers worldwide and has two quick-turn services in North America, Europe and Japan: Firstcut ( www.firstcut.com) CNC machining and Protomold ( www.protomold.com) injection molding. Both are capable of providing parts in as fast as one business day. Product developers who use Proto Labs for prototypes and short-run production can upload a 3D CAD file at any one of Proto Labs online sites, get an interactive quotation and place an order for Proto Labs services directly online. For more information, visit: www.protolabs.com.

Copyright Business Wire 2010