11 Nov 2019

Introducing: Compact Cane

By Will Spurr

A discreet digital white cane for visually impaired people


Losing your sight is a daunting experience. It is the sense we rely on most, and so as your field of vision narrows, the range of options open to you narrows too. Moreover, carrying a cumbersome white cane can make people feel stigmatised and isolated. Four in ten visually impaired people feel cut off from those around them, and people with sight loss tend to feel less optimistic about the future. 

Nia Simpson wants to wipe away the awkwardness of using a white cane, and so developed Compact Cane. She is on a mission to minimise the impact that visual impairment has on everyday life. 

Compact Cane works by emitting sonar signals that measure the distance between the device and surrounding objects. The discreet handheld device then vibrates with an intensity that alters in accordance with the distance between the user and their surroundings. In practice, it functions a lot like a classic white cane, the difference is that Compact Cane fits neatly – almost invisibly – into the user’s hand. Visually impaired users can then take it with them as they carry out their ordinary tasks; walking through town, getting their shopping, socialising and so on.  

‘Compact Cane has the power to significantly improve the lives of the two million visually impaired people in the UK’

Nia started developing Compact Cane as a final year project for her Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with Advanced Design and Innovation at the University of Bath. Since then she has worked on iterating and improving the prototype. To gain valuable insights, she has worked closely with organisations such as visionPLUS and University of Bath, as well as several potential customers and plans to distribute it through local and national sight loss charities and online assistive tech distributors.


Compact Cane

Compact Cane has the power to significantly improve the lives of the two million visually impaired people in the UK and approximately 285 million worldwide. Not only will it reduce the physical burden of losing one’s sight, but it can also leave open so many possibilities for a fulfilling life. 

To keep up with Nia’s progress, check out the video below! You can also find out more on her website, you can follow @compactcane, sign-up to her newsletter, and get in touch with her at nia@compactcane.com.