Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of projects that use ultrasonic or time-of-flight sensors as object detection methods for the visually impaired. Ultrasonic sensors detect objects like sonar — they send sound pulses and measure the time it takes for the signal to bounce off the object and come back. Time-of-flight sensors do essentially the same thing, but with infrared light. In either case, the notifications often come as haptic feedback on the wrist or head or whatever limb the ultrasonic module is attached to. We often wonder why there aren’t commercially-made shoes that do this, but it turns out there are, and they’re about to get even better.
Today, Tec-Innovation makes shoes with ultrasonic sensors on the toes that can detect objects up to four meters away. The wearer is notified of obstacles through haptic feedback in the shoes as well as an audible phone notification via Bluetooth. The company teamed up with the Graz University of Technology in Austria to give the shoes robot vision that provides even better detail.
Ultrasonic is a great help, but it can’t detect the topography of the obstacle and tell a pothole from a rock from a wall. But if you have a camera on both feet, you can use the data to determine obstacle types and notify the user accordingly. These new models will still have the ultrasonic sensors to do the initial object detection, and use the cameras for analysis.
Whenever they do come out, the sensors will all be connected through the app, which paves the way for crowdsourced obstacle maps of various cities. The shoes will also be quite expensive. Can you do the same thing for less? Consider the gauntlet thrown!
Virtual reality is a slow-moving field in some respects. While a lot of focus is put on optical technologies and headsets, there’s a lot more involved when it comes to believably placing a human being in a virtual environment. So far, we’ve gotten a good start at the visuals and head tracking, but interaction technology is still lagging behind a lot. [Lucas] is working in just that area, iterating heavily on his homebrew VR gloves.
The gloves consists of potentiometers, fitted with spools and attached to the tip of each digit on a wearer’s hand by a string. As the user curls their fingers, the potentiometers turn and the position of the fingers can be measured. The potentiometers are all read via an Arduino, which communicates back to a PC via USB. A custom driver is then used to interact with Valve’s SteamVR software, allowing the glove to be used with a wide variety of existing software.
Thus far, the system is merely tracking finger position, but the spool and string based design is intended to support motors down the line for each finger to create resistance, so the user can gain the feeling of touching and interacting with virtual objects. The project has the potential to be a cheaper, more accessible alternative than current off-the-shelf solutions. We’ve seen other hand-tracking gloves before, too – though none that track the spread of a wearer’s hand as well as the finger extension. If you’re working on precisely that, please do drop us a line. Video after the break.
Force feedback took off in a big way in the late 90s, bringing a sense of realism to flight sticks and racing wheels that hadn’t been there before. Its cheaper haptic cousin was rumble feedback via vibration motors, which does add a little something but it’s more an idea of a feeling than anything relevant to real life. It’s also usually pretty weak, but [teenenggr] has a way around that.
The build takes a regular Playstation controller, and disconnects the internal rumble motors. The controller’s motor output is instead linked to an Arduino Uno’s digital input. When the Arduino detects the rumble motor signal switching on, it turns on a relay, supplying power to a hefty one horsepower induction motor, fitted with an eccentric weight.
What happens next is pure chaos. Essentially equivalent to throwing a brick in a washing machine, the motor shakes the entire desk at the slightest hint of rumble signals from the gain. Sustained vibration commands, such as when firing machine guns in Crysis, flung [teenenggr]’s monitor from the desk. Even with it taped down, game play quickly became impossible as he inadvertently hits ALT-Tab and leaves the game while trying to hang on to the desk for dear life.
Is it a useful hack? No, but it would make an excellent prank if bolted underneath your friend’s gaming rig for a laugh. With that said, the intense vibration probably won’t do any good for mechanical hard drives, anything with edge connectors, or just their computer in general. It’s a big step up from the last [teenenggr] project we featured – a rumble feedback mouse. Video after the break. Continue reading “Gaming With 1 Horsepower Of Rumble Feedback”→
PC gamers consider their platform superior for the sheer processing power that can be brought to bear, as well as the inherent customisability of their rigs. Where they’re let down perhaps is in the typical keyboard and mouse interface, which tends to eschew fancy features such as haptic feedback which have long been standard on consoles. Aiming to rectify this, [Neutrino-1] put together a fancy haptic feedback system for FPS games.
The hack is quite elegant, using a Python app to scrape the GUI of FPS games for a health readout. The health numbers are gleaned using OpenCV to do optical character recognition, and the resulting data is sent to an ESP12E microcontroller over a USB serial connection. The ESP12E then controls a series of Neopixel LEDs and vibration motors, providing color and haptic feedback in response to the user’s health bar changing in game.
Using image recognition allows the system to be quickly reconfigured to work with different games, without the mess of having to learn different APIs for every different title. It’s a really fun way to quickly get a project interfacing with a piece of software that we’d love to see more of in future. It makes a nice complement to other hacks we’ve seen in this space, like the gaming mouse with recoil feedback. Video after the break.
Piezo elements have the useful property of being bidirectional; that is they can move when you apply electricity to them, but they can also generate electricity when you move them. [Carl] takes advantage of this fact to make buttons that can provide haptic feedback. You can see a video of his efforts below the break.
He made two versions of the buttons. One uses a 3D printed housing and the other used a 3D printed spacer in a sandwich configuration. It took a few tries to get it right, as you’ll see. The elements take and produce relatively high voltages, so the bulk of the work was adapting the voltages back and forth. In fact, he even managed to fry his CPU chip with some of the higher voltages involved.
We’d probably look for an easier way to sense the button push, since it seems like a good bit of circuitry just to do that. But the whole circuit provides an input button, haptic feedback, and the option of using the buzzer as a buzzer, so at least it is relatively economical if you need all of those features.
The lily58, which is a 58-key split with dual OLED footprints, was just a starting point for this build. For tablet mode, where the keyboard is attached to the back of a tablet with hook-and-loop tape, [_GEIST_] created custom plates that double the thumb keys on the back.
We love that there is a PSP thumbstick for mousing on one layer and inputting keystrokes on other layer. But we can’t decide which is our favorite part: the fact that [_GEIST_] threaded it through the bottom of a Kailh Choc switch, or the fact that there’s a Pimoroni Haptic Buzz with a different wave form for each layer. [_GEIST_] also added an acrylic middle plate layer to support quick-change magnetic tenting legs.
The feedback effect is run by an Arduino, which receives serial data from a Python program running on the host computer. When the mouse is clicked, the Python program notifies the Arduino, which then fires a bank of four solenoids repeatedly back-and-forth to generate the feedback effect. The solenoids are triggered by a relay, which is an easy way to switch such a load, though we suspect it may not hold up well over time due to the rapid fire rate and the likelihood of spark damage over time from high inrush current to the solenoids.
It’s a simple build that nonetheless adds a great haptic feedback effect to the otherwise humble computer mouse. While we don’t expect to see pros using the device anytime soon, it’s a great concept that does add to the shooter experience. Similar hardware could likely be put to great use in a VR context, too. The state of the art of haptic technology continues to move at a rapid pace, and we can’t wait to see what comes next. Video after the break.