When we mention a tactile feedback vest, what comes across your mind? Most of us might hark back to the tactile gaming vest that lets you feel the punches and hits you receive in a video game, but a group of engineering researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have a totally different picture instead – they intend to make the walking cane a thing of the past, replacing it instead with a “guide vest” that will work in conjunction with a helmet-mounted camera, while special software will go about assisting wearers in “seeing” the world through tactile feedback.
The system will rely on a helmet-mounted binocular camera that captures images which are then sent wirelessly to a computer, where Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) software will kick into action to build maps of the environment and identify a safe path, navigating through obstacles that are present. This route information will then be conveyed to the user thanks to a guide vest which boasts of a quartet of micro motors that are built into the shoulder and waist.
The motors will vibrate whenever there are obstacles ahead so that you can navigate safely. How so? A vibration on the left shoulder means the object is on the upper left (a branch, for example), while a vibration on the right waist might mean an object on the lower right, like a sleeping dog. Hopefully this system will be out soonest, and at an affordable price, too. I wonder whether this might also help prevent sleepwalkers from crashing into items?