Muchammad Adib, a student at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and his two colleagues in the school’s engineering program, have created an impressive new way for visually impaired individuals to navigate their world. The Combo Cane uses an attached Global Positioning System (GPS) device to provide instructions and directions in ways that traditional low-tech canes cannot. Adib and his friends won a third place certificate for their innovation at the 15th International Conference on Biomedical Engineering, held in December 2013 in Singapore.
Adib is one of numerous Tanoto Scholars—a group of deserving young people who have been able to achieve their dreams and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities and nation through financial assistance from the Tanoto Foundation. Established as a social service project to aid Indonesia’s underserved people through the generosity of RGE Group CEO Sukanto Tanoto and his wife, the foundation now provides funding for early childhood educational opportunities, infrastructure projects, university and vocational scholarships, entrepreneurial training, and other services. Tanoto scholars are among Indonesia’s most promising young people, and all have demonstrated leadership skills and a strong dedication to bettering themselves through education.
Adib and his friends designed their Combo Cane after close consultation with faculty and students at Indonesia’s Yaketunis School for the Blind. After surveying the Yaketunis group about their daily activities and previous experience in using various types of canes, the university students opted to pursue a GPS-based device.
According to statistics, some three and a half million Indonesians are blind, and every minute one more person is added to that number. While they acknowledge that, at this time, the Combo Cane only offers a maximum of five pre-determined locations in its memory, the developers feel that the invention offers significant potential to improve the lives of people with visual impairments in Indonesia and beyond.