WeWALK, the startup that has developed a smart cane for the visually impaired, has completed its first fundraising of £600,000 from a group of investors across Europe who responded to the “WeWALK Together” social impact message and story. The funds will be used to accelerate growth and tech development, making the WeWALK smart cane even smarter, including the enhancement of the navigation system for safety-critical applications when using public transport and the deployment of new urban exploration features to provide the best and safest routes.
WeWALK, which has its global HQ based in London and has already reached customers in 37 countries, is on a mission to change the lives of the visually impaired worldwide. Founded by graduates of the Young Guru Academy (YGA), a social-tech driven non-governmental organization, the team envisions WeWALK as the personal hub for the visually impaired which enables them to reach all kinds of technology and information services, putting it at the forefront of cutting-edge assistive technologies. This is exemplified through WeWALK’s collaboration with Microsoft, where WeWALK participated in Microsoft’s 2019 AI for Good program to implement novel AI solutions for the visually impaired. WeWALK was also awarded an Innovate UK grant, in partnership with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) and Imperial College London to focus on WeWALK’s indoor navigation capability.
“We created WeWALK using cutting-edge technology to get visually impaired people wherever they want to go, safely, effectively, and independently. With the support of our investors and strategic partners, such as Microsoft and Imperial College London, we are set to deliver an even bigger impact for the visually impaired community worldwide” comments Gökhan Meriçliler, co-founder and UK Country Lead of WeWALK.
There are 253 million visually impaired people in the world, with the white cane, a simple tool primarily designed to provide ground-level obstacle detection, the most widely used piece of supportive equipment for the visually impaired. By equipping the white cane with modern technology, WeWALK improves the safety and independence of the visually impaired people, allowing them full and equal participation in everyday life. WeWALK’s ergonomic attachment fits on top of a regular white cane and connects to the WeWALK mobile app. Using WeWALK’s inbuilt sensors, touchpad, speaker and microphone, users can benefit from above-ground obstacle detection, seamless outdoor navigation, Alexa voice commands, and hands-free control of their mobile device, straight from their cane.
WeWALK has been awarded an Edison Gold Medal (2018), was one of TIME’s best inventions of 2019 and has also received an honorable mention (May 2020) in World Changing Ideas, a major annual award by Fast Company that honors products, companies and design that are pursuing innovation for the good of society. WeWALK, which is currently on sale through international visually impaired organizations and distributors, can also be ordered from the WeWALK website.