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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
Bat technology helps the blind
UltraCane inventor Professor Brian Hoyle
The UltraCane should be available to buy from early next year
Blind and visually-impaired people are set to receive a helping hand from an invention inspired by bats.

The UltraCane bounces high frequency signals off objects up to three metres away to tell a person when something - or someone - is in their path.

The echo detecting device was designed and developed by experts at the University of Leeds who tried to mimic the navigational methods used by bats.

After successful trials the product is due to go into production and could be available from the start of next year.

Inventor Professor Brian Hoyle told BBC Look North: "It works by emitting ultrasonic sounds that are very high frequency so you and I and even dogs cannot hear them.

The UltraCane
A vibrating unit allows the user to map out their surroundings
"They come out of little transducers and I get a signal on a vibrating device.

"When I have my thumb on it I feel the vibration and I know you are in front."

UltraCane tester Andrew Saies, who lost his vision as a child, said its ability to detect objects at head level is a major improvement on the more conventional white stick.

He said: "With a normal cane I would probably walk into over hanging bushes and things.

"With this cane it tells you when there are things at head height so you know when to duck."

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