Kürşat Ceylan, Gökhan Meriçliler, Sadık Ünlü together with Young Guru Academy and Vestel, invented a smart cane for the visually impaired. WeWALK team aims to enhance the mobility of 253 million visually impaired people around the globe.
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WeWALK team’s story had begun much earlier than the idea of inventing a smart cane for the visually impaired. WeWALK’s co-founding team met during university times at a social impact NGO called YGA. They had workshops and camps with more than 10.000 visually impaired students and visited many global visually impaired NGOs together. They listened to visually impaired communities’ problems, got their insights, and worked to develop technology-based innovations to these problems.
Their experience in developing visually impaired technology spans over 10 years, from the audio description in movie theatres to an indoor navigation system reaching hundreds of thousands of users and won several prestigious awards.
The WeWALK smart cane’s story began when co-founder Kursat Ceylan was traveling across New York City. Ceylan, who’s been blind since birth, was speaking at the United Nations’ Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, while making his way from the airport to his hotel with his suitcase, smartphone, and traditional white cane in hand, collided with a pole, causing him injury.
As a WeWALK team, they wanted to address these challenges and started by asking: How might we develop a new white cane for the smartphone era? What if a white cane could bring all of a user’s mobility apps into one seamless experience? What if it included voice control and a touchpad so that the user could control their phone directly from their cane, keeping their other hand free to carry suitcases or open doors? What if it had ultrasonic sensors and vibrated when it detected a low-hanging object? What if it came with a companion app that enabled the white cane to improve over time with a simple app update?
So, they wanted to come up with a radical solution that would solve all these problems with one device and reach all visually impaired around the globe, and finally together with Vestel, they developed WeWALK.
WeWALK Smart Cane provides a much safer and more independent mobility experience to the visually impaired community, with it scutting-edge tech an AI.
By equipping the white cane with modern technology and providing a fully accessible, custom-built navigation experience, WeWALK improves the safety and independence of the
visually impaired, allowing them full and equal participation in everyday life. WeWALK smart cane’s ergonomic attachment fits on top of any white cane and, using its inbuilt sensors, touchpad, and voice interface.
WeWALK can detect above-ground obstacles by using a front-mounted ultrasonic sensor, warning the user with vibration feedback. Pair with the WeWALK Smartphone app using Bluetooth to access connected mobility services, including navigation, exploration, and public transport, all controlled through the WeWALK smart cane.
There are 253 million visually impaired people globally, with 50 million being cane users. This yields a global total addressable market of $17.5 billion for visually impaired assistive technologies, and a serviceable addressable market of $2.3 billion for mobility-specific technologies, including canes. The total addressable market is expected to grow to $23.2 billion by 2023 (16% CAGR).
So far, WeWALK smart cane’s accessible technology solutions have reached out to thousands of users from 59 countries.
According to the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide, there are about 253 million people with visual impairments, many of them use a traditional white cane to help them get around.
White canes are a valuable tool and the symbol of independence for visually impaired people, but it hasn’t changed in 100 years, and unfortunately, it is untouched by technology. Everything else has changed dramatically with technology; we have been talking about flying autonomous cars. so WeWALK team asked themselves: why not the white cane?” And WeWALK was born by leveraging cutting-edge tech, voice technology, and AI driven by our own lived experiences.
WeWALK accessible technology solutions have reached out to thousands of users from 59 countries.
The WeWALK team also initiated the ‘Let’s Walk Together’ project with the support of the Ministry of Education to deliver smart canes to 1000 visually impaired high school students during this year, and all visually impaired middle and high school students in Turkey within the following 2 years.
Further, all the production process of WeWALK is implemented within Turkey. Thus, it not only helps the visually impaired but also contributes to the national economic growth and know/how inside the country to allow other entrepreneurs to learn and establish their own responsible initiatives.
- It is named as one of the most important inventions of 2019 by TIME magazine.
- It is recognised as ‘Startup of the Year’ at the Amazon Launchpad Innovation Awards 2021
- It won the Gold Award at the Edison Awards, previously won by Elon Musk and given in honour of Thomas Edison.
- It was the only Turkish startup selected for the “AI for Good” presented by Microsoft for technologies that shape the future.
- In 2020, it was shown among the ideas that changed the world by Fast Company and win the “World Changing Ideas” award.
- It was chosen as the best start-up by Plug & Play at CEATEC, one of the most important fairs in Japan.
- It was featured in more than 300 different news stories in 30 different languages. In addition to important news sources such as CNN, BBC, Forbes, it was also reported in Bloomberg, The Times, Reuters and Nasdaq in 2021.
Vestel IoT, Cloud and Automation Deputy General Manager Burak Savak
“It is aimed to design a product that will fully help end users by understanding their needs, not the industry’s. In other words, there has been a process that goes from end-user to product, which is unusual in the industry.”
Metin Salt, General Manager of Vestel Ventures
“As the Vestel Ventures team, we met the founders of WeWALK before their company was even established. As Zorlu Holding, we worked together with the WeWALK team to ensure that visually impaired people participate fully and equally in social life in all processes from the idea stage to the production and sale of WeWALK devices.”