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Maxwell Smart from the TV series Get Smart. Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Spy-style walking stick could hit the sidewalk

James Bond had a ring with a camera inside it. Inspector Gadget had a bowler’s hat with an extendable propeller. Maxwell Smart had a shoe phone. And now Australia’s seniors could be getting about using a walking stick with GPS tracking, an alarm and wi-fi connection.

The tool, created by Master of Design student Xia Zhang who is in his final semester at the Swinburne School of Design, was inspired by the program’s theme ‘re-imagine ageing’.

Called Leef, the smart walking stick is also equipped with an app that connects to all of the added features, indicates battery life and provides tracking for carers to locate the person. It can also supply health data like the number of steps walked each day.

Leef in six designs. Photo: UOW.

Zhang said feedback from co-design workshops helped him refine the idea. “Some participants suggested that I could add fashion elements to the walking sticks. This made the sticks more popular and acceptable,” he said. “They helped me to choose the most important functions for the walking stick.”

One such function was a built-in light system designed to guide people walking outside at night. The light is powered by a rechargeable battery inside the handle.

Another was an alarm button that the user can push if they’re in trouble. Carers are notified of the duress through the support app.

The app also allows carers to detect lack of movement and the location of the stick’s user and attend to them quickly.

The project was led by industry partner John Pollears and Simone Taffe, Associate Professor in Communication Design.

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