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Fujitsu prototype GPS cane hands-on: the future of monitoring and protecting the elderly

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Fujitsu's Stylistic S01 isn't the company's only attempt to cater to an older audience. It's also experimenting with a rather ingenius (and super glossy) take on the classic cane, that looks like something out of a sci-fi film. Inside the two-toned elliptical head-piece are a pile of electronics, including Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi and a cellular radio. And at the front of the grip is a small display, consisting of an array of multi-color LEDs. Those little bulbs light up, primarily in red or green, to communicate through simple pictographs. The primary function is to offer directions using the GPS. The LEDs tell you which way to head with simple green arrow animations and alert you to upcoming turns by flashing a red exclamation point. While we understand and appreciate the simplicity, the combination of relatively dim LEDs and the glossy design made it a bit difficult to make out direction under the harsh lights of the Fujitsu booth -- we can only imagine things would only get worse under a glaring mid-day sun.

This isn't just a dumbed-down guidance device, however. The GPS can also be used to track movement, while other sensors on board can monitor temperature, humidity and heart rate. There's a small pad at the top where you place your thumb to get a BPM readout. Should the heat get cranking and grandpa's heart rate start to climb, a loved one could set a destination for him remotely and lead him to the nearest place to cool off. Fujitsu reps said the current prototype is capable of lasting between two or three hours on a charge, though we imagine much longer battery life will be needed for it to become a practical, everyday solution. There's no telling if or when this futuristic walking stick will hit the market, but we wouldn't be surprised to see some form of it in the next year or two. Technology moves quick and the healthcare industry is one of the quickest growing markets for the cutting edge. If you'd like a glimpse of how the system might work, check out the video after the break.

Gallery: Fujitsu prototype GPS cane hands-on: the future of monitoring and protecting the elderly | 16 Photos

Sean Cooper contributed to this report.

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