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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Type

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (M.S.M.E.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Ultrasonic pulse coding, synthetic aperture, pulse compression, travel aid for the blind


The objective of this research was to increase the independence and safety of the sight impaired by developing an enhanced travel aid in the form of a sensor embedded long-cane to reduce the risk of injury from walking into suspended or overhanging objects while providing the sight impaired community with a familiar and well accepted tool.

Prior research at the Electromechanical Systems Laboratory had established a theoretical framework for ultrasound-based ranging and spatial obstacle localization from the moving reference frame of a long-cane. A prototype was implemented using analog threshold detection techniques.

This research focused on a new approach. A coded pulse was transmitted and correlation techniques were used to identify echoes and determine time of flight. Compared to the prior effort this new approach was more sensitive, had greater noise immunity, and provide greater spatial resolution for obstacle detection. The first step in the coded pulse approach was to generate a transmit pulse with an embedded binary code that is highly distinguishable. A transmit pulse generated by phase modulating a 40 kHz carrier signal with a 13-bit Barker code word, with each bit consisting of 4 cycles of the 40 kHz carrier was used. Digitized representative echoes were used as reference vectors for correlation to account for the effect of the impulse responses of the transducers, the air, and the reflection, on the transmitted pulse. In a detection cycle, the coded pulse was transmitted, the A/D converters took 2600 samples at the 150 kHz sampling rate to capture any echoes from objects between 1 and 4 meters in front of the cane. The receiver data was cross-correlated with the stored echo image to find echoes in the received signal. The correlation peak positions from the upper receiver were then compared to the peak positions from the lower receiver and if they collaborated within the synthetic aperture, the range and height were calculated annunciation was made by a synthesized voice.

The new obstacle detection system described above was designed and a prototype was constructed and embedded into the shaft of an 18 mm diameter body of a long cane.


First Advisor

Robert X. Gao