If someone is recovering from an injury that reduces their mobility, it's not uncommon for them to walk with a cane throughout the day, and to periodically get their progress checked by a rehabilitative therapist. A new "smart" cane, however, could allow them to do both things at once.

Designed by scientists from the Embedded Systems Engineering Group at Spain's University of Malaga, the device is actually based around a conventional cane's body, but it has two pressure sensors located at different depths inside its tip.

For each step taken, these detect how much weight the user is placing upon it, and for what amount of time.

That data is transmitted by Bluetooth to the user's smartphone. From there, it's sent to their therapist's computer, where special algorithms are used to determine if the user is still largely reliant on the cane for support while walking, or if their need for it is diminishing.

It looks and is used just like a regular cane, and its battery gets wirelessly recharged between uses. Additionally, at a manufacturing cost of under €100 (about US$112), it's reportedly much cheaper than other previously-developed pressure-sensing canes. In fact, the scientists have made its design and software freely available on the internet, for use by anyone.

Down the road, plans call for it to be equipped with an artificial intelligence system. This would allow for onboard data-processing, and for the analysis of more complex indicators of patient progress.

The research, which also involved scientists from Sweden's Mälardalens University, is described in an open-access paper that was recently published in the journal Sensors.

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