We'd always thought the cane was a relatively mature technology — it's very good at helping you walk around, and really can't be improved. We were wrong. Hidden against a bright white wall inside Fujitsu's booth at MWC was the Next Generation Cane, which is more or less what you'd get if you brought a bunch of science fiction writers into a room and asked them how to make Cane 2.0. The Cane doesn't even look like you'd expect: its handle is oblong and glossy, like something you might find lying on the ground inside the USS Enterprise. Inside is a battery of sensors and radios: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G, a heart rate monitor, and more.
The Next Generation Cane comes with a companion app for your PC. You can use the app to program in a location, and the cane will guide its owner there. The cane's top-located display uses green arrows to point you the direction you're supposed to be facing, then tracks you to make sure you're heading the right way. If you get off course or need to turn, the cane vibrates and blinks red at you before directing you the proper way. The app can also track the cane, so if your loved one gets lost you'll be able to find them quickly; you can even monitor their environment or their heart rate through a sensor in the handle, so you'll know if something's wrong as well.
The Next Generation cane is but a prototype, and Fujitsu said it doesn't know when it will be anything else, or how much it will cost if and when it does go on sale. For the company's home market, though, the product makes immense sense: Japan is home to the highest proportion of senior citizens in the world, and Fujitsu's clearly looking around and defining needs. The cane was definitively not where we expected to see innovation at this year's MWC, and we're pleasantly surprised to see what Fujitsu's up to.