Wearable display meets blindfold test for sensing danger

Feb 23, 2013 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago have developed a special set of body modules that provide wearers with extra-sensory perception as to who or what is nearby. The design could help the blind navigate safely or even support cyclists or drivers as additional safety support in traffic. Called SpiderSense, this is a wearable display that can pick up ultrasonic reflections from objects. SpiderSense can also allow the wearer, even if eyes are closed, to navigate.

The researchers behind SpiderSense define it as a wearable device that projects the wearer's near environment on the skin. The suit gives the user a special directional awareness of surrounding objects. They have explored a scenario where multiple sites over the body, rather than just hands, are fitted with transducers. These transducers relay information about the wearer's environment into tactile sensations.

As the researchers noted, that cover the skin provide opportunities for conveying alerts and messages. They set about to design a that could also relay alerts and messages. When the ultrasound detects someone moving closer to the microphone, the arms exert increased pressure on the body. The SpiderSense design and experiment results are presented in their paper, "Sensing the Environment Through SpiderSense," by Victor Mateevitsi, Brad Haggadone, Jason Leigh, Brian Kunzer, and Robert V. Kenyon.

SpiderSense on a blindfolded user. Credit: Victor Mateevitsi

Modules are distributed across the suit to give the wearer as near to 360-degree coverage as possible. The system modules can scan the environment; they are controlled through a Controller Box. The box carries the , the electronics and the system logic. The modules and the Controller Box are connected by means of ten pin ribbon cables. The researchers said that, in the future, this could be replaced by a connection.

Does their concept work? In one experiment, students on campus were asked to stand outside, blindfolded, and feel for approaching attackers. Each wearer had ninja cardboard throwing stars. If the test subject sensed someone approaching, then that participant was asked to use the stars. "Ninety five per cent of the time they were able to sense someone approaching and throw the star at them," Mateevitsi said.

Positioning of Sensor Modules and Controller Box. Credit: Victor Mateevitsi

While experiments showed success in outdoor environments, results of indoor testing were not as successful, where sensor modules overwhelmed the user with tactile feedback.

The team intends to further develop the gear by adding more sensors. They suggest several practical applications. The gear could help the vision-impaired get around more easily, and they plan to start trials with the visually impaired. Another application might be as compensating support for the hearing-impaired.

Still another could be as a supplementary aid in spatial awareness. They said that bicyclists, for example, could have one sensor on each forearm facing outwards and two sensors on their back, being aware of passing or incoming traffic.

Their paper will be presented at the Augmented Human International Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, on March 7.

Explore further: Comfortable climate indoors with porous glass

More information:www.vmateevitsi.com/
www.evl.uic.edu/core.php?mod=4&type=3&indi=474
— Research paper (PDF): www.evl.uic.edu/files/pdf/Spid… SenseCameraReady.pdf

via Newscientist

Related Stories

Glove designers plan messaging path for deaf-blind

Apr 07, 2012

(Phys.org) -- People coping with the double absence of vision and hearing can communicate via mobile devices with the help of a special glove, now under development in Germany’s Design Research Lab. The ...

Research team uses robot eye technology to help the blind

May 02, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A research team from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris have ported technology originally developed to help robots maneuver in real world environments to Braille enabled devices that help vision impaired ...

Kinect to help the blind 'see' in augmented reality

Mar 18, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- It seems like there are no shortage of uses for the Kinect system. The device, which was initially created by Microsoft as an add-on to its popular Xbox 360 video game console, to allow users ...

Research could lead to wearable sensors for the blind

Sep 28, 2011

Wearable sensors that allow the blind to "see" with their hands, bodies or faces could be on the horizon, thanks to a $2 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to researchers at The City College of New York ...

Google has designs on flip-up wristwatch

Oct 04, 2012

(Phys.org)—While futurists have generally enthused about the coming age of wearable computing, showcase items among the top vendors have focused on prototypes for heads-up displays. Reactions have included ...

New system helps deafblind people to communicate

Jan 15, 2013

A team of researchers from the Alcoy campus of the Universitat Politècnica de València, together with the companies Innovatec and Indra, has designed a new device to help deafblind people to communicate ...

Recommended for you

Tesla says decision on battery factory months away

2 hours ago

(AP)—Electric car maker Tesla Motors said Thursday that it is preparing a site near Reno, Nevada, as a possible location for its new battery factory, but is still evaluating other sites.

Comfortable climate indoors with porous glass

22 hours ago

Proper humidity and temperature play a key role in indoor climate. In the future, establishing a comfortable indoor environment may rely on porous glass incorporated into plaster, as this regulates moisture ...

Crash-testing rivets

22 hours ago

Rivets have to reliably hold the chassis of an automobile together – even if there is a crash. Previously, it was difficult to predict with great precision how much load they could tolerate. A more advanced ...

Customized surface inspection

23 hours ago

The quality control of component surfaces is a complex undertaking. Researchers have engineered a high-precision modular inspection system that can be adapted on a customer-specific basis and integrated into ...

Sensors that improve rail transport safety

23 hours ago

A new kind of human-machine communication is to make it possible to detect damage to rail vehicles before it's too late and service trains only when they need it – all thanks to a cloud-supported, wireless ...

Tiny UAVs and hummingbirds are put to test

Jul 30, 2014

Hummingbirds in nature exhibit expert engineering skills, the only birds capable of sustained hovering. A team from the US, British Columbia, and the Netherlands have completed tests to learn more about the ...

User comments : 0