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3D Haptic Vest for Visually Impaired and Gamers

This project's goal was to make a vest that a visually impaired or gamer could use when moving around in their environment(real or virtual).

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This project was created on 07/19/2014 and last updated a month ago.

This vest allows the visually impaired or blind to perceive their environment in 3D through its array of 48 vibration motors. This vest could also be used for gamers that play online or console games to give them cues and other important information. This vest is intuitive to use.

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.

The skin, a sense organ, contains...

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  • 1 × Laptop running Windows
  • 2 × Adafruit 12-Bit 24-Channel Led Drivers
  • 1 × Microcontroller I used the Parallax Propeller
  • 1 × Microsoft Kinect
  • 1 × Microsoft Visual C# WPF Programming Language
  • 1 × Kinect for Windows SDK - Microsoft
  • 1 × Microcontroller's Programming Software I used SPIN Programming Language for the Parallax Propeller
  • 1 × Neoprene Vest
  • 1 × Back Pack
  • 1 × Neoprene

See all components

Project logs
  • Testing

    a month ago • 0 comments

    To test this project I got a dozen volunteers to use the vest while blindfolded and some of them listened to loud rock music.  They did not have any direct collision when put into a maze of obstacles.  They all took about a minute or less each to learn how to use the vest.  So it is very intuitive.  What is directly in front of the sensor is displayed on the belly and the peripherals are displayed on the left and right portions of the back.  High objects can be determined from low objects because of the 4 rows of motors.  Higher objects are on the higher rows and lower objects are on lower rows.  Soon I will try the vest on legally blind people.

  • Cheap Buys

    a month ago • 0 comments

    If anyone is searching for a cheaper parallax propeller board.  When I last checked,  I think I saw that Adafruit sells them for less than parallax does(lol).

    This project is not limited to only using the propeller board, others can most definitely use Arduino with Adafruits open source led driver code.

    The vibration motors should be bought in bulk so they cost less.  I bought mine off of ebay.

    The neoprene sports vest was also bought from ebay.

  • Vest

    a month ago • 0 comments

    Using Neoprene squares on Neoprene to isolate the vibrations was the best method to prevent distortion of the perceived 3D image.  The wires that connect the motors to the electronics box do CARRY vibrations.  Isolating those vibrations is completely necessary to have a good quality, perceived image.  Other projects that are similar to this one have big trouble to get good quality images but this project has great quality images.

View all 4 project logs

Build instructions
  • 1

    Procedure for Vest

    Purchase a Neoprene Vest.

    Put neoprene squares on 1" pieces of foam.

    Mount vibration motors on Neoprene platforms.

    Mount neoprene platforms onto the fest to be 2" apart in a grid pattern so that the vibrations can be recognized on from another.

    Solder the ends of the wires from the motors to the ribbon cable at the back of the vest. (I used 30 gauge wire. DON'T use 30 gauge, use a lower gauge but not to low.  I used a high gauge to prevent vibrations from spreading as bad and it worked.)

    Insulate the connections.

    Attach double fold bias tape to the vest with fabric glue to cover the wires.

    Connect all ground wires to a long ground wire.

    Procedure for Electronics Box

    To control 48 motors at once(THIS IS AWESOME) follow the diagram.

    This uses 2 Adafruit LED Drivers, 48 PNP Transistors(that can handle at least 60 milliamps, mine could handle 800 milliamps), a box, 1 Parallax Propeller, and D Cell Batteries(they can have about 12 amp hours of electricity).


David Cook wrote 2 months ago null point

Cool demo video!

Are you sure? [yes] / [no]

Sean Benson wrote 2 months ago null point

Thank you!

Are you sure? [yes] / [no]