Almost every big corporation has a research and development organization, so it came as no surprise when we found a tip about Disney Research in the Hackaday Tip Line. And that the project in question turned out to involve human-safe haptic telepresence robots makes perfect sense, especially when your business is keeping the Happiest Place on Earth running smoothly.
That Disney wants to make sure their Animatronics are safe is good news, but the Disney project is about more than keeping guests healthy. The video after the break and the accompanying paper (PDF link) describe a telepresence robot with a unique hydrostatic transmission coupling it to the operator. The actuators are based on a rolling-diaphragm design that limits hydraulic pressure. In a human-safe system that’s exactly what you want.
The system is a hybrid hydraulic-pneumatic design; two actuators, one powered by water pressure and the other with air, oppose each other in each joint. The air-charged actuators behave like a mass-efficient spring that preloads the hydraulic actuator. This increases safety by allowing the system to be de-energized instantly by venting the air lines. What’s more, the whole system presents very low mechanical impedance, allowing haptic feedback to the operator through the system fluid. This provides enough sensitivity to handle an egg, thread a needle — or even bop a kid’s face with impunity.
There are some great ideas here for robotics hackers, and you’ve got to admire the engineering that went into these actuators. For more research from the House of Mouse, check out this slightly creepy touch-sensitive smart watch, or this air-cannon haptic feedback generator.
Continue reading “Keeping Humanity Safe from Robots at Disney”
The “absorbed device user” meme, like someone following Google Maps on a smart phone so closely that they walk out into traffic, is becoming all too common. Not only can an interface that requires face time be a hazard to your health in traffic, it’s also not particularly useful to the visually impaired. Haptic interfaces can help the sighted and the visually impaired alike, but a smart phone really only has one haptic trick – vibration. But a Yale engineer has developed a 3D printed shape-shifting navigation tool that could be a haptics game changer.
Dubbed the Animotus by inventor [Ad Spiers], the device is a hand-held cube split into two layers. The upper layer can swivel left or right and extend or retract, giving the user both tactile and visual clues as to which direction to walk and how far to the goal. For a field test of the device, [Ad] teamed up with a London theater group in an interactive production of the play “Flatland”, the bulk of which was staged in an old church in total darkness. As you can see in the night-vision video after the break, audience members wearing tracking devices were each given an Animotus to allow them to navigate through the interactive sets. The tracking data indicated users quickly adapted to navigation in the dark while using the Animotus, and some became so attached to their device that they were upset by the ending of the play, which involved its mock confiscation and destruction.
Performing art applications aside, there’s plenty of potential for haptics with more than one degree of freedom. Imagine a Bluetooth interface to the aforementioned Google Maps, or an electronic seeing-eye dog that guides a user around obstacles using an Animotus and a camera. There’s still plenty of utility in traditional haptics, though, as this Hackaday Prize semi-finalist shows.
Continue reading “Experimental Theater Helps Field test Haptic Navigation Device”
There are 3.6 Million deafblind people in the world, and by far their greatest problem is one of communication. For his entry for the Hackaday Prize, our own miracle worker on hackaday.io is creating a system that enables haptic communication for a variety of devices. It’s called Tact-Tiles, and instead of creating a single device, [Anderson] is building an entire system that enables a multitude of communication devices for deafblind people.
The basic unit of the Tact Tile system is a small, touch sensitive vibrating pad. These tiny PCBs can be fitted to just about anything, including a wired glove, or whatever haptic interface anyone can dream up. The core of the device is a small PCB that can control 32 of these vibrating pads, and communicates with a smartphone or computer over a Bluetooth connection.
With a little bit of software, the Tact Tiles can be configured an any way imaginable, with mapping individual tiles to letters of the alphabet, mapping gestures to letters, or any combination in between. [Anderson] has a great video demoing the possibility of his device, you can check that out below.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Tact Tiles”
For his project entered in the Hackaday Prize, [Neil] is working on a navigation aid for the blind. He’s calling his device Pathfinder, and it’s designed to allow greater freedom of motion for the disabled.
Pathfinder is a relatively simple device, with a cheap, off the shelf ultrasonic distance sensor, an ATMega, and a few passives. On its own, the ultrasonic distance sensor is only accurate to about 5%. By incorporating a temperature sensor, [Neil] was able to nail down the accuracy of his sensor to about 1%. Impressive!
For the machine to human interface, [Neil] chose haptic feedback, or small vibration motors tucked away inside a wristband. It’s by far the easiest way to add the output needed, and with a haptic motor driver, it’s easy to add specialized drive patterns to the vibration motor
You can check out [Neil]’s quarterfinal entry video for the Pathfinder below.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Haptic Navigation”
Many of us have gone on a stationary romp through some virtual or augmented scape with one of the few headsets out in the wild today. While the experience of viewing a convincing figment of reality is an exciting sensation in itself, [Mark Lee] and [Kevin Wang] are figuring out how to tie other senses into the mix.
The duo from Cornell University have built a mechanical exoskeleton that responds to light with haptic feedback. This means the wearer can touch the sphere of light around a source as if it were a solid object. Photo resistors are mounted like antenna to the tip of each finger, which they filed down around the edges to receive a more diffused amount of light. When the wearer of the apparatus moves their hand towards a light source, the sensors trigger servo motors mounted on the back of the hand to actuate and retract a series of 3D printed tendons which arch upward and connect to the individual fingers of the wearer. This way as the resistors receive varying amounts of light, they can react independently to simulate physical contours.
One of the goals of the project was to produce a working proof of concept with no more than 100 dollars worth of materials, which [Mark] and [Kevin] achieve with some cash to spare. Their list of parts can be found on their blog along with some more details on the project.
Continue reading “Touching Light with Haptic Feedback”
For his entry to The Hackady Prize, [Sean] is building a haptic vest for gamers and the visually impaired. It’s exactly what you think it is: a vest with proximity sensors and motors that wrap around the wearer, providing haptic feedback of nearby obstacles. Actually building a vest with a few dozen motors is a bit of a challenge, and that’s why this project is in the running for The Hackaday Prize.
Each of the 48 motors are individually controllable with PWM. In any other project, this would require a few dozen microcontrollers or one with a whole lot of pins. [Sean], however, is using LED drivers. They do exactly what [Sean] needs them to do – an easy to interface way of a whole bunch of PWM lines – and they do it cheaper than any other solution.
For detecting objects surrounding the vest, [Sean] is using the depth sensor on a 1st gen Microsoft Kinect. In testing, [Sean] blindfolded a volunteer and had a few friends move around with cardboard ‘obstacles.’ The volunteer successfully avoided all the obstacles, as seen in the video below.
The project featured in this post is a quarterfinalist in The Hackaday Prize.
Continue reading “THP Semifinalist: A Haptic Vest With 48 Vibration Motors”
The most common way to put some sort of haptic feedback in an interface hasn’t changed much since the plug-in rumble pack for the Nintendo 64 controller – just put a pager motor in there and set it spinning when the user needs to feel something. This method takes a relatively long time to spin up, and even the very cool Steam controller with voice coiled directional pads can’t ‘stick’, or stay high or low to notify the user of something.
[Tim]’s day job is working with very fancy piezoelectric actuators, and when an opportunity came up to visit the Haptics symposium, he jumped at the chance to turn these actuators into some sort of interface. He ended up creating two devices: a two-piezo cellphone-sized device, and a mouse with a left click button that raises and lowers in response to the color of the mousepad.
The cellphone device contains two piezo actuators with a 10 gram weight epoxied on. A small microcontroller and piezo driver give this pseudo phone the smoothest vibrations functions you can imagine. The much more innovative color-sensing mouse has a single actuator glued to the left button, and a photosensor in the base. When the mouse rolls over a dark square on a piece of paper, the button raises. Rolling over a lighter area, the button lowers. It’s all very, very cool tech and something we’ll probably see from Apple, Microsoft, or Sony in a few years.
Videos of both devices below.
Continue reading “Piezos For Haptic Feedback”