Innovation Lead Chris Jenkins from London Vision tries the Sunu Band
The Sunu Band is an intelligent mobility aid designed to improve navigation for blind and partially sighted people. It has an echolocation sonar sensor with a vibrating motor which is incorporated into the sports watch-like wristband. Vibrations inform the user about obstacles up to 15 feet away.
The flat surface of the band is the touchpad, which allows users to control the interface. There are two buttons located along one edge of the band’s control pad. The home button is long with a rough texture and the navigation button is shorter with a smooth texture. The makers claim that wearing it augments awareness of the user’s personal space and reduces accidents, ultimately providing a more confident and enjoyable mobility experience. So, I’ve been putting it to the test in various situations to understand to what extent it can help people with a visual impairment navigate environments.
Sunu comes with additional features, to benefit from them you need to have an Apple or Android smartphone and download the Sunu app to link it with. Here they are:
Haptic Watch: Discreetly tell time without others taking notice by using vibratory pulses.
Vibratory Alarms: Easily set up alarms from the App with different vibratory patterns on your Sunu Band.
Obstacle Detection: The sonar sensor enables you to perceive objects or obstacles that are within your environment.
Customisable – adjust the sonar range, sensitivity and vibratory feedback intensity via the app.
Access to new applications and features via the Sunu App.
First things first, I needed to charge it. The micro-USB connection is located on the inside of the buckle end of the strap and feels like an indentation. It will take one and a half hours to fully charge. Estimated usage time is approximately 12 hours.
You can wear Sunu Band on either hand, ideally with the sensor on the same side as your thumb. They recommend you wear it on the opposite hand to which you handle other travel aids such as a white cane or guide dog.
I’ve tried it on both hands and after a bit of a learning curve, with interpreting the vibration patterns and remembering the button presses and finger swipes I’m getting the hang of it.
As it’s summer I’m wearing short sleeves, so nothing is blocking the sonar. In a few weeks I’ll be wearing long sleeved coats which might prove to be more restrictive for object detecting outdoors.
Sunu is perhaps best suited to providing navigation and useful functions while exercising. It can count your steps, keep time and get you across a gym through the obstacle maze of equipment and people.
Ultimately my wish for future development would be the ability to pair the band to a treadmill and control basic functions like change speed, stop and start by the band’s controls.
The cost is about £288 VAT included, if you have a vision impairment it could be about £30 less than that price.
If you are in the market for an accessible fitness wearable and you want to actively explore the environment, it appears to be a robust and useful product with the likelihood of more features to be added in future. by Chris Jenkins