AN invention to help blind and partially-sighted people has been relaunched by a North Yorkshire business.

Sound Foresight Technology, based in Tockwith, has relaunched the UltraCane, a mobility aid, which mimics the echo location of bats using wide ranging ultrasound to build a “spatial map’” of the person’s surroundings and warns them of obstacles in their path and at head height through vibrating.

The UltraCane was invented by a team at the University of Leeds in 2004. A company was then formed with about £1 million of business angel funding.

But the business went into receivership in 2008 after the business struggled to keep quality consistent and sold the product at a loss.

Prof Brian Hoyle from the University of Leeds, one of the original inventors, is now part of a new team working Dr Paul Clark, a former academic he used to work with, who now owns electronic design company Comms Design, based in Sicklinghall. Dr Clark, whose business supplies radio communications systems to the likes of Network Rail, provided investment capital to the team, research and development to improve the product and his links with manufacturers.

The team also includes former heart surgeon Alban Davies, who also has a background in regenerative medicine, and Julie Davies.

Dr Clark, said: “We reviewed the product and redesigned the hardware and improved the hardware.

“It does transform people’s lives and really enhances their mobility. Those who thought it was good before who have tried the new cane say it really is better. It’s more sensitive and more reliable.

“It is particularly gratifying to be able to be part of an all-British invention with the potential to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people around the world. UltraCane is an all round British success story – it has been developed, manufactured and brought to market in this country and we are very proud to be a part of it”.

The old business sold 1,200 units in the UK and internationally, with the product patented in 17 different countries. The new business needs to win back some confidence, said Dr Clark, but it intends to revive sales with old leads and exports and is currently being exhibited at Germany’s Natural History Museum in the “Patents of Nature” exhibition in Munster until June 2012.