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Sonar Powered Watch to Help Blind People Get Around

by Vishnuprasad on  November 28, 2014 at 7:21 PM Medical Gadgets   - G J E 4
Drawing on echolocation principles used by bats and dolphins, a group of students at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, developed a watch prototype that uses sonar signals to paint a picture of the built environment.
Sonar Powered Watch to Help Blind People Get Around
Sonar Powered Watch to Help Blind People Get Around
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The watch has two sonar distance sensors that send signals out into the environment and measure the distance they travel before hitting an object.

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This distance is changed into vibrating feedback on the wearer's wrist, like a haptic collision warning system.

William Conner, a biology professor at the University who advised the developers, says a sonar watch isn't a totally new idea.

Using sonar as a way to help the visually impaired has been the subject of research for a while now.

A quick search in the Internet will show you sonar hats and sonar-enabled canes. But there's a big difference says, Conner

"The watch uses tactile, not auditory feedback," he says.

The device has a range of about three feet, so it only buzzes when you're directly in front of an object.

The vibrations hit on your wrist - the closer you get to the object, the more frequent the buzz.

"By sweeping an arm, the user can scan the object to get a sense of how big it is. It's kind of like a sonar flashlight," says Conner.

Jack Janes, a senior computer science and physics major who worked on the project, said that it's not a standalone device.

"Right now you'd want to use it in tandem with a seeing dog or some other form of way-finding," he explained.

But the potential for this technology's future is exciting.

Attaching sensors and vibrators like a belt around the torso could enable users to get a bigger picture of their surroundings.

"It would take an upgrade in sensors and processing, but you could imagine how someday it might be possible to imprint more detailed, two-dimensional images onto the user's skin.

We'd have to know a lot more about echolocation, how the sounds process and have a much better interface. But it's just a matter of time," says Conner.

Source: Medindia
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