Humans and AI: Meet Kürşat Ceylan
Meet passionate people from all walks of life who are putting AI into action to transform our world.
Meet Kürşat Ceylan
Kürşat Ceylan was born blind. While many parents may have wanted to be overprotective, his mom always encouraged a sense of independence in him. She never let him believe that his visual impairment could restrict him from chasing his dreams. Kürşat wanted to instill this same sense of independence in others like him, so he co-founded WeWALK, a smart cane designed to enhance the mobility of people with visual impairment.
Growing up independent
I was born in 1986 and grew up in Istanbul. I have one brother and we are both blind from birth. Growing up, I considered my mom my hero. She was not well-educated, but she worked hard and had a great vision for both me and my brother. My mom was always hopeful and confident that we would be able to do whatever we dreamed of. Because of this, I discovered independence at a really young age.
When I was seven years old, I left my home to study at a boarding school for children with blindness. This is where I furthered my passion for independence and learned to manage all my needs on my own. When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher showed me how to use assistive technology on a computer—something I did not realize was possible before. I discovered the possibilities that can be achieved with technology. I eventually learned to program in Pascal and used it to develop software for my own needs.
The need for a new cane
Years later, I was in New York to give a speech when I had an epiphany. I was making my way through the airport, trying to hold onto my cane, my smartphone, and my suitcase when I collided with a pole. It was impossible to navigate so many different components. I realized there had to be a better way. Technology has advanced so much, but the traditional white cane for people with vision impairment was just that—a plain white cane.
Introducing WeWALK smart cane
Keeping my experience in New York in mind, I co-founded WeWALK. WeWALK is a smart cane designed for people with vision impairment. WeWALK’s cane pairs with a free mobile navigation app to detect overhead obstacles and alert its users through haptic feedback, give turn-by-turn navigation, inform about restaurants, stores, cafes, while I'm passing by. And, most importantly, the cane gains new features by integrating with cutting-edge smart city solutions.
The hope is that with the use of a smart cane, users will be able to easily onboard and comfortably travel on their own—whether that be down the street or across the world. At the same time, we understand that not everyone will be able to afford advanced hardware, which is why we started a fundraising campaign to help provide canes to families that cannot afford them. Join us and WeWALK together.
Working with Microsoft
We have been able to partner closely with Microsoft to develop our current technology and future offerings for people with visual impairment. WeWALK is a Microsoft AI for Good and AI for Accessibility grantee, which allowed us to receive support towards developing AI Mobility (AIM)- technology. AIM is developed to enhance visually impaired mobility training through a platform that intelligently feedbacks to the smart cane users and O&Ms (orientation and mobility specialists). As the next step of our journey, we will be rolling out AIM technology in collaboration with Microsoft and introducing it to schools all around the world.