­An affordable and lightweight white cane that improves user safety during navigation in different terrains

Institute Reference: INV-22010


According to the latest statistics by WHO, around 89 million people of the world population are blind or moderately to severely visually impaired. White canes can provide safety and navigation assistance to this population. Currently, the most popular canes are folding canes, which are constructed of 4-5 segments with conical joints that allow the segments to slide into place when the cane is deployed. While this type of cane is portable, it is neither sturdy enough nor user-friendly. The telescoping cane is another popular cane type, chosen for its portability and ease of use. The mechanism for extending and retracting the cane is controlled by the user pulling and pushing the cane’s tip. Although many users prefer telescoping canes, there are disadvantages. When a telescoping cane becomes lodged in an obstacle, it can collapse, which can be jarring for the user. This raises issues with its performance as well as its durability. Both folding and telescoping have limited functionality in certain weather conditions, terrains, and user navigation. The most recent types of canes are smart canes that offer various features in the handle and can be attached to different folding canes. The handle itself provides information about obstacle detection through haptic feedback and allows users to connect to a smartphone app through a touchpad on the cane to control different modes and navigation. However, smart canes are prohibitively expensive due to their complex design compared to regular canes. Due to these aforementioned challenges, only an estimated 2‑8% of people who are visually impaired and blind use white canes regularly. Therefore, modifications should be made in current white canes to improve the user experience. 

Technology Overview

Researchers at Northeastern have designed a telescoping cane, which extends and retracts automatically and quickly with a button. It also has a multi-terrain tip that can detect ice. Prior to this invention, no cane could both extend and retract with an automatic mechanism. Additionally, no cane tip could mechanically detect ice and roll in all directions. This cane and tip possess these capabilities and is the only cane that is telescoping with automatic locking upon extension. The unique design of the cane makes it lightweight, durable, and inexpensive for consumers. These innovative features empower users to feel safe and confident as they travel. Other tips could also be used with this cane as it has standard threading on the tip. The standard threaded connector on the cane’s tip allows it to be similarly used with other canes. Furthermore, other extension and retraction devices or products can use the mechanism of this invention. For instance, a rolling vs. slipping ice detection tip can be used in other robotic applications. 


  • Low-cost material and manufacturing 
  • Lightweight and portable 
  • Durable and sturdy 
  • Suitable for multi-terrain use 
  • Semi-automatic deployment 
  • Affordable (< $50)
  • Safety and ease of handling 


Navigation for blind and visually‑impaired individuals


  • Licensing 
  • Partnership
Patent Information:
Medical Devices
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
MaryBeth Rockett
Adam Mohamed
Nathalie Perry
Julia Spada
Pragnya Kalidindi
all in one
Blind Navigation device