Mouse and HDD combo show off your data gluttony

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So we know you’ve got a lot of porn on your computer, but just how much is a lot? This concept mouse and hard drive combo aims to show you just how much digital junk you have acquired through physical feedback.

The DataBot mouse looks like a typical run of the mill scroll mouse that you might get with a new computer. Inside however, the designers have added a small servo which alters the ease with which the ball moves. The more files you have stuffed into the folder you are moving around, the more the mouse resists, giving you a sense of the physical “weight” of your computer’s contents.

The DataBot hard drive gives you a sense of how full your computer is by growing and shrinking based on space usage. During file transmissions the hard drive blinks its LEDs to indicate how fast or slowly your files are moving. When the inevitable file access error occurs, the LEDs switch to a bright red hue and the drive shakes to indicate there is a problem afoot.

With the price of data storage decreasing by the day, it’s easy to get lost in a glut of information without realizing just how much data you have. This is definitely an interesting way to get a different look at your data consumption.

Check out the videos below to see the pair in action.

[via Dvice]

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Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired

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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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Are phones with haptic feedback in our future?

Can we do away with a keypad and just squeeze our phones to check messages and dial contacts? [Sidhant Gupta] has been researching the idea of an electronically adjustable spring mechanism that might just make this possible. He calls the prototype above the SqueezeBlock. If you pick it up and give it a squeeze you can feel springs pushing back against your fingers, but it’s all a trick. Inside you’ll find one motor with a gear that converts the linear motion into a rotating force. Attached to the same axle as that gear are a motor and a rotary encoder. A microcontroller monitors that encoder to detect a user squeezing the two plates together, then drives the motor to vary the resistance. [Sidhant] outlines some possible uses that included stiffer resistence as unread email starts to pile up, or squeezing the device to its smallest size to turn the ringer volume all the way down.

We’re a little skeptical of this functionality in handhelds just because of the power consumption issue. But if that is somehow overcome we think this would make a pretty interesting phone feature… at least at first. Click through the link above for a video demonstration or get the details from the research presentation (PDF)

[Thanks Dan]

Haptic feedback joystick uses air muscles

[Ben Krasnow] is working on a force-feedback joystick. It centers around the concept of an air muscle which transfers pressure into linear motion. He cites another air muscle project as part of the inspiration in his build, but where he’s gone with it is one of the better uses for these blow-up components that we’ve seen.

Basically you have a bladder, in this case rubber tubing. A mesh surrounds it to reinforce the material and cause inflation to shorten the length of the package. In the image above there are four black air muscles that connect the base of a joystick with the outer frame that houses it. How and when each muscle is pressurized determines the type of motion the user will feel on the joystick. This is where his pressure controller comes into play. It uses a voltage-to-pressure transducer to feed a manifold, the combination of which not only makes each muscle addressable but allows him to dial in the force sent to the muscles. Check out the video after the break for his start-to-finish walk through.

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Headpiece Jabbing for Smiles

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[Lauren] has created a facial conditioning device dubbed the Happiness Hat. The hat measures a sensor at the wearer’s cheek to determine if the wearer is smiling. When the hat does detects the wearer is not smiling, it activates a servo that prods the wearer. This project is fairly unique in that it provides haptic bio-feedback of what the body is doing, a similar project to the Happillow. While the Happiness Hat seems to work for treating the outward symptoms of unhappiness, this is but an early step towards the droud.