For their final project in embedded microcontroller class, [Aaheli, Jun, and Naomi] turned their focus toward assistive technology and created an Electronic Travel Aid (ETA) for the visually impaired that uses haptic feedback to report the presence of obstacles.
We have seen a few of these types of devices in the past, and they almost always use ultrasonic sensors to gauge distance. Not so with this ETA; it uses six VL53L0X time-of-flight (ToF) sensors mounted at slightly different angles from each other, which provides a wide sensing map. It is capable of detecting objects in a one-meter-wide swath at a range of one meter from the sensors.
The device consists of two parts, a wayfinding wand and a feedback module. The six ToF sensors are strapped across the end of a flashlight body and wired to an Arduino Mini inside the body. The Mini receives the sensor data over UART and sends it to the requisite PIC32, which is attached to a sleeve on the user’s forearm. The PIC decodes these UART signals into PWM and lights up six corresponding vibrating disc motors that dangle from the sleeve and form a sensory cuff bracelet around the upper forearm.
We like the use of ToF over ultrasonic for wayfinding. Whether ToF is faster or not, the footprint is much smaller, so its more practical for discreet assistive wearables. Plus, you know, lasers. You can see how well it works in the demo video after the break.
This device is intended to augment the traditional white cane, not replace it. This virtual cane we saw a few years ago is another story.
Continue reading “Find Your Way with Tiny Laser Beams”
If you are blind or your vision is impaired, moving around in a new space can be a harrowing experience. A cane helps, but only samples one point at a time, and can’t help that much above a certain height. The Digital White Cane is a haptic feedback device that uses Time of Flight components to detect surrounding objects.
The Digital White Cane uses a type of LIDAR known as Time of Flight (ToF) sensing. Rather than a point by point scan by a laser, ToF sensors capture an entire scene with each pulse. These sensors are actually somewhat new and designed for the latest generation of robotics and hand detection for soap dispensers. The good news is that they’re small and cheap, just what you want for a wearable.
The sensors allow detection of objects within 2m (about 6 feet) from all directions. Haptic feedback allows the wearer to determine where the object is around the wearer. Because it’s head-mounted, it detects objects at head height as well as floor height. A Teensy LC is used as the main processor and is connected to the ToF sensors as well as small motor board for the haptic feedback.
This project has a lot of potential to help people with vision impairment and is a great entry into the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Check out the video after the break to see it in action. If you’re looking for some more applications of this small, cheap ToF sensor, check out this cat food dispenser, and here’s a ball-balancing robot – both pretty cool projects in their own right.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Digital White Cane”
The World Health Organization estimates that around 90% of the 285 million or so visually impaired people worldwide live in low-income situations with little or no access to assistive technology. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Tiendo] has created a simple and easily reproducible way-finding device for people with reduced vision: a bracelet that detects nearby objects and alerts the wearer to them.
It does its job using an ultrasonic distance sensor and an Arduino Pro Mini. The bracelet has two feedback modes: audio and haptic. In audio mode, the bracelet will begin to beep when an object is within 2.5 meters. And it behaves the way you’d expect—get closer to the object and the beeping increases; back away and it decreases. Haptic mode involves two tiny vibrating disk motors attached to small PVC cuffs that fit on the thumb and pinky. These motors will buzz differently based on the person’s proximity to a given object. If an object is 1 to 2.5 meters away, the pinky motor will vibrate. Closer than that, and it switches over to the thumb motor.
To add to the thriftiness of this project, [Tiendo] re-used other objects where he could. The base of the bracelet is a cuff made from PVC. The nylon chin strap and plastic buckle from a broken bike helmet make it adjustable to fit any wrist. To keep the PVC cuff from chafing, he slipped small pieces from an old pair of socks on to the sides.
It’s easy to see why this project is a finalist in our Best Product contest. It’s a simple, low-cost assistive device made from readily available and recycled materials, and it can be built by anyone who knows a little bit about electronics. Add in the fact that it’s lightweight and frees up both hands, and you have a great product that can help a lot of people. Watch it beep and buzz after the break. Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: A Bracelet for the Blind”
Chorded keysets can be found all over. For instance, Braille writers and court stenographers both use them. These chorded keyboards create each letter by pressing a combination of keys rather just one, making for much smaller keyboards [Christine] got the idea to create wearable rig that uses an accelerometer and vibe motor attached to each finger to serve as a one-handed, no-look, silent keyer. Forget small keyboards, this project does away with it altogether, relying on the accelerometers to keep track of your fingers.
[Christine]’s prototype consists of a Bluno BLE controller, a GSM module, and a few accelerometers and motors. The vibration motors not only provide haptic feedback so you know you tapped something, but also replays the chords so you can double-check what you’re writing.
Typically one-handed keyboards rely on button presses, with no-look use dependent on memorizing the layout—think of a 10-key pad. [Christine]’s project lets you type on any surface or none at all, making it handy for typing while you work with the other hand. It also has great potential for vision impaired users.
Is it possible to effectively communicate tactile pedagogical messages in a heuristic tele-haptic proto-sculpting environment? Let’s try rephrasing that. What if you could use a robot to help teach someone a creative skill? Imagine guiding someone’s hand with a paintbrush. Now imagine guiding a bunch of peoples’ hands with paintbrushes, using a series of linked robots.
From [Morgan Rauscher] comes Art-Bot 2.0 — a creative learning tool that provides an entirely new way to teach painting, sculpting, or pretty much anything requiring dexterity or a tool. We covered Art-Bot 1.0 a few years ago, but in case you’ve forgotten, it was an eight-foot tall chainsaw wielding robot inside of an enclosure. Even children, using the remote, could play with chainsaws.
Constructed with the help of the Hexagram Institute, Art-Bot 2.0 is made up of three rugged servo driven robot arms. One is for the teacher, to guide movements, one performs those same movements on a work-piece, and a third robot arm allows a student to feel what is happening.
Continue reading “Tele-Haptic Proto-Sculpting: Using Robots To Teach”
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”