How the blind use this vest:
Testing included experimenting with patterns for displaying the 3D information of the environment on the vest (haptic means vibrations). It was determined that the best pattern was making the 3D image wrap around the torso. In other words, what is directly in front of the sensor will be “displayed” on the belly and what is on the left and right sides will be “displayed” on the back. The closer the object is to the sensor the faster the motors will vibrate corresponding to the area in which the object is located.
Testing was done in an open area inside. The person wearing the vest was blindfolded and was listening to loud music with noise cancelling earplugs. Obstacles were placed around the person by people holding sheets of cardboard. The user avoided walking into every obstacle. The vest was tested on several people.
The procedure for wearing the vest is as follows. The user puts on the vest and connects the ribbon cable and ground cable to the electronics box. The Kinect is hung around the neck or alternately mounted on a hardhat. The Kinect plugs into the battery and the computer through the special power plug. A 3v battery pack is then attached to the circuit box. All the electronics are put into the backpack. The Master Controller Program (MCP) and Communicator programs are initialized. The computer is closed and placed in the backpack. The backpack must be worn with the vest.
The screenshot below (figure 1) is from the Master Controller Program. The results on the screen show an array of four by twelve numbers that correspond to the motor layout on the vest. The numbers, ranging from 0 to 8, indicate the intensity of the vibration of the motors. Zero represents no vibration indicating that there is no object within the maximum range of 2.2 meters. A value of 1 indicates that an object is within 0 and 0.8 meters which is the minimum range of the Kinect’s depth sensor. The values that range from 2 to 8 indicate that an object is within 0.8 meters and 2.2 meters. The image on the right side of the screen shot shows what is in front of the infrared depth sensor.
Figure 1: Screen shot of Master Controller Program
Results showed that the vest works well and requires very little time for a person to learn to use it.
How gamers use this vest:
Gamers could use this vest to “feel” 3d sensations for bullets hitting them, people walking by, direction cues, etc. The vest would use an audio sensor (instead of the Kinect) to hook up to internet games.
How the vest works:
This project uses a matrix of 48 vibration motors that wraps around the torso. The vest sends tactile feedback to the user in such a way that they can perceive the environment in front of them in 3d. This is done by using varying levels of vibrations. Eight levels of vibration were used of the possible 4096 levels. The closer something is to the wearer (or the louder the sound in gaming), the higher the intensity of vibration in the motors that correspond to the location of the object (or sound). Each motor used a maximum of 60 milliamps. If all 48 motors were running at the maximum speed for an hour, 2.88 amps would be consumed. A depth sensor, a computer, battery pack, and a microprocessor with IC’s (Integrated Circuits) are needed to run the vest. The computer, the battery pack, and the electronics are contained inside a backpack.
The depth sensor used in this project is the Microsoft Kinect. By using the Kinect the vest can still work in complete darkness. This was because the Kinect uses an infrared camera sensor.
The vest would use a stereo video camera (like one from an Xbox Kinect), processors, a computer, and a battery supply. The electronics other than the Kinect would be stored in a backpack.
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