Aaron Dean

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Koorosh Naghshineh

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Meyer

Third Advisor

Dr. Dae Kim

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Wall Emerson


White cane, blind pedestrian, surface preview, texture discrimination, drop-off detection

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The white cane is the primary navigation tool used by many blind pedestrians, but the basic design of the cane has not changed since the 1940s. A greater understanding of the factors affecting cane performance is essential in improving the design and performance of these canes. One aspect of performance is surface texture discrimination. A study is performed to determine the effect of cane rigidity and cane swipe speed on the ability of a user to select the rougher of two surfaces with different textures. Two methods are developed to select the rougher surface using only the measured cane vibration. The first method makes a selection using the change in frequency of high amplitude acceleration peaks caused by the interaction of the cane tip and the surface, the second method uses the overall amplitude of vibration to make a selection. Both methods correctly predict the rougher surface at the same rate as the participants in the study. This shows that changes in both frequency and amplitude may be important cues for texture discrimination. A pilot study is also performed to investigate the use of vibration cues for the detection of drop-offs in the walking surface.