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DIY Wristband Provides Haptic Sonar for the Blind

With technology getting cheaper and ever more compact, Steve Hoefer, glove-inventor extraordinaire, decided that it was time there be an upgrade from the standard blind man’s cane. Unfortunately, it’s not a laser-cane or anything, but it’s still pretty neat: A haptic sonar gauntlet. The device wears kind of a like a glove. You slip your middle finger through a loop and then the actual guts of the thing, which appear to be about the size of a clay pidgeon, sit on top of your hand. From its perch there, the device sends out ultra-sonic pings and feeds the response times into a pair of servos that apply pressure proportional to the distance of the object.

Through the use of this device, a blind person can survey the general lay of their surroundings by gently swinging their arm around and pushing towards, or pulling away from  pressure, depending on what they’re trying to do. Because the device sits on the back of the hand the way it does, it won’t interfere with normal sense of touch or any dexterity-based activities. Hoefer toyed with the idea of a head-based device, before deciding that was just a sighted-bias.

The device is not retail, so you have to build one yourself, but there are detailed instructions on the process available at the Grathio Labs website. The parts retail for about $65, so it’s really not too bad of an investment so long as you don’t mind tracking down the parts and putting them together (or finding someone to do it for you). Seems like an interesting idea, although not exactly leaps and bounds from, say, a cane. There’s also a possibility that being close to something intentionally could cause the device to keep triggering, which might get annoying. Still, I am sure there are plenty of people who will find that it comes in handy.

(via Popular Science)

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