Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired

gps_haptic_shoe

The world can be a pretty difficult place to navigate when you lack the ability to see it. There are many visually impaired people across the globe, with some figures claiming up to 40 million individuals affected. While walking canes and seeing-eye dogs can be a huge help, [Anirudh] of Multimodal Interactions Group, HP Labs India, and some students at the College of Engineering in Pune, India (COEP) have been hard at work constructing a haptic navigation system for the blind.

[Anirudh Sharma and Dushyant Mehta] debuted their haptic feedback shoe design during an MIT Media Lab Workshop hosted at COEP. In its current form, Google Maps and GPS data is sourced from an Android device, which is fed to an Arduino via Bluetooth. The Arduino then activates one of four LEDs mounted on a shoe insert that are used to indicate which direction the individual should travel in order to safely reach their destination. While the current iteration uses LEDs, they will be swapped out for small vibrating motors in the final build.

We’re always fans of assistive technology hacks, and we think this one is great. The concept works well, as we have seen before, so it’s just a matter of getting this project refined and in the hands shoes of those who need it.

Stick around for a quick video about the project filmed at the MIT/COEP event.

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Brainwave-based assistive technology in the home

eeg_smart_house

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a debilitating disease that eventually causes the afflicted individual to lose all control of their motor functions, while leaving their mental faculties intact. Those suffering from the illness typically live for only a handful of years before succumbing to the disease. On some occasions however, patients can live for long periods after their original diagnosis, and in those cases assistive technology becomes a key component in their lives.

[Alon Bukai and Ofir Benyamin], students at Ort Hermalin Collage in Israel, have been working hard on creating an EEG-controlled smart house for ALS patients under the guidance of their advisor [Amnon Demri]. The core of their project focuses around controlling everyday household items using brainwaves. They use an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset which monitors the user’s brainwaves when focusing on several large buttons displayed on a computer screen. These buttons are mapped to different functions, ranging from turning lights on and off to changing channels on a cable box. When the user focuses on a particular task, the computer analyzes the headset’s output and relays the command to the proper device.

As of right now, the EEG-controlled home is only a project for their degree program, but we hope that their efforts help spur on further advancements in this field of research.

Continue reading to see a pair of videos demonstrating their EEG-controlled smart house in action.

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