The white cane (and its many variants) is an everyday carry for many visually impaired people. This low-tech tool allows those afflicted by visual impairment to safely navigate the world around them, and has been ubiquitous in many parts of the world for decades. [Madaeon] has been hard at work going one step further in prototyping an open-source assistive wearable that could help in situations where a cane is not practical, or useful.
The T.O.F Wristband V2 alerts its wearer to nearby obstacles through vibrations, and is able to detect objects up to four meters away. As the wearer veers closer and closer to an obstacle, the vibration increases in frequency. A time-of-flight distance sensor is controlled by a Feather, and the whole system is powered by a small lithium-polymer battery. The prototype consists of just four components plus a 3D printed case and bracelet, which inevitably keeps down costs and complexity.
Version two of this project picks up where version one left off. In that project, [Madaeon] mentioned the possibility of squeezing this project down to the size of a ring. Perhaps with better battery technology, a ring-sized sensor might just be possible one day.
This isn’t the first wearable that has set out to assist the visually impaired. Back in 2019 we covered a laser-augmented glove that attempts something very similar.
By some estimates, nearly one billion people worldwide have some degree of visual impairment. Assistive devices like the T.O.F Wristband V2, and others like it, offer these people the potential for greater independence and an improved standard of living.
Continue reading “A Digital White Cane For The Visually Impaired” →
If we count all the screens in our lives, it takes a hot minute. Some of them are touchscreens, some need a mouse or keyboard, but we are accustomed to all the input devices. Not everyone can use the various methods, like cerebral palsy patients who rely on eye-tracking hardware. Traditionally, that only works on the connected computer, so switching from a chair-mounted screen to a tablet on the desk is not an option. To give folks the ability to control different computers effortlessly [Zack Freedman] is developing a head-mounted eye-tracker that is not tied to one computer. In a way, this is like a KVM switch, but way more futuristic. [Tony Stark] would be proud.
An infrared detector on the headset identifies compatible screens in line of sight and synchs up with its associated HID dongle. A headset-mounted color camera tracks the head position in relation to the screen while an IR camera scans the eye to calculate where the user is focusing. All the technology here is proven, but this new recipe could be a game-changer to anyone who has trouble with the traditional keyboard, mouse, and touchscreen. Maybe QR codes could assist the screen identification and orientation like how a Wii remote and sensor bar work together.
How many mundane devices upgrade to IoT because they let you monitor a single data point or a variable? That little nudge over the communication precipice allows you to charge 500% more. Now, if you are as handy as a Hackaday reader, you can throw a lazy afternoon at the problem and get the same effect from a “dumb” appliance. If IoT is as simple as getting a notification when your laundry is dry, or your water is boiling, all you really need is a WiFi device and a push notification, right? Does it need to be more complicated than that? [Gianni] believes it is that simple (machine translation) and has built up an easy-to-implement version on Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and ESP8266.
[Gianni] leverages the aptly named Pushover (a paid app with a 1-week trial period) to convert your bits, bytes, words, or strings to a push notification. This idea is born of the desire for a home security system which doesn’t require constant monitoring but instead alerts you to problems. The minimum requirement you need is for your phone to chime with a notification saying, “Your front window sensor has been tripped.” Now it is time to launch your IP camera app or call someone nearby.
It’s not revolutionary, it may be the “Hello World” of IoT, but that is all some people need. The general idea is the same no matter the framework you want to use. For instance, if you Google Suite account, you can set up a chatroom just for your alert notifications; Google’s quickstart takes about 3 minutes to test it out in Python. The same setup is also available for Slack, and [Tom Nardi] did a guide for doing this with Discord. These tackle the receiving side, but the sending side is really flexible too — that MQTT broker you built could easily be the source of the alerts.
Build a handful of these in a weekend and keep them nearby to step up your next project to IoT status with a couple of solder joints. Maybe it will be a motion sensor for your own security system.
Head-mounted displays range from cumbersome to glass-hole-ish. Smart watches have their niche, but they still take your eyes away from whatever you are doing, like driving. Voice assistants can read to you, but they require a speaker that everyone else in the car has to listen to, or a headset that blocks out important sound. Ignoring incoming messages is out of the question so the answer may be to use a different sense than vision. A joint project between Facebook Inc. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have a solution which uses the somatosensory reception of your forearm.
A similar idea came across our desk years ago and seemed promising, but it is hard to sell something that is more difficult than the current technique, even if it is advantageous in the long run. In 2013, a wearer had his or her back covered in vibrator motors, and it acted like the haptic version of a spectrum analyzer. Now, the vibrators have been reduced in number to fit under a sleeve by utilizing patterns. It is being developed for people with hearing or vision impairment but what drivers aren’t impaired while looking at their phones?
Patterns are what really set this version apart. Rather than relaying a discrete note on a finger, or a range of values across the back, the 39 English phenomes are given a unique sequence of vibrations which is enough to encode any word. A
phenome phoneme is the smallest distinct unit of speech. The video below shows how those phonemes are translated to haptic feedback. Hopefully, we can send tweets without using our hands or mouths to upgrade to complete telepathy.
Continue reading “Get Your Tweets Without Looking” →