Vanderbilt Researcher Invents 'Intelligent Cane' To Help Prevent Falls

Posted at 1:05 PM, Feb 22, 2018

For many adults, a single fall can cause serious injury or even death. According to the CDC, every year one in four Americans fall and all those falls add up. The medical cost: more than $30 billion a year.

Now one Vanderbilt University researcher is working to keeping older Americans moving forward. It's called the "intelligent cane." It's equipped with special sensors on the base and in the hand grip.

Vanderbilt Mechanical Engineering Professor Nilanjan Sarkar said it can help patients and physical therapists gather critical information.

"Most of the canes that we use today are not intelligent in the sense that they can help you balance and your gate but it is not telling you the story of how you are walking," he said.  

Usually, the physical therapist can only observe a patient while they're at the clinic, but this cane can help care-givers monitor progress all the time. 

"We have about 45 minutes to evaluate someone's gate and I think there's a lot we can do with movement analysis," said Christina Kelly at physical therapist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "I think the artificial intelligence could definitely add a piece to our treatment sessions."

The cane works on all terrains. Professor Sarkar has completed two clinical studies and hopes to build a special clip-on device that can attach to any existing cane.