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SonicScape (Binaural Sensor Glasses for the Blind)

Depth perception and obstacle detection glasses for the visually impaired using ultrasonic sensors and a binaural soundscape environment

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The urban environment is a very difficult place to navigate and orientate yourself through, especially if you are a visually impaired person trying to live your life. That is why I have tried to come up with a technological solution that will help blind people know of their surrounding obstacles in an unknown environment without the help of a walking stick or a guide dog. Further from having a basic Arduino integrated system through the help of a pair of ultrasonic sensors (HC-SR-04) connected through bluetooth (HC-05, HC-06) , I want to also add some sort of GPS or RFID mapping system to the portable device which will allow the blind user to track themselves of where they are currently through a voice-activated agent. It will allow for family or relatives of the blind user to also track them of where they are through an app on their smartphone. That is what I am trying to achieve by the end of this project.

This project - SonicScape -consists of a pair of ultrasonic sensors connected via Bluetooth to an Arduino (with a MP3 shield) in which a blind person can wear as glasses, in order to calculate distances between the blind user and any immediate obstacles (walls, doors, chairs, etc.) that are left or right of them. The distances are then translated into a series of audio beeps with the delays between them getting smaller when the user is nearing an obstacle (the user will wear bone conduction headphones). Two independent left/right audio channels are used in order to give the blind user a sense of orientation in an unknown environment through his/her left and right ears.

blind_uS_glasses.ino

A file of the code

ino - 3.89 kB - 06/27/2017 at 16:45

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IMG_0529.JPG

A basic Arduino Uno setup with an added MP3 shield in order to test out my idea in its early stages

JPEG Image - 428.14 kB - 04/22/2017 at 18:59

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Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 19.48.33.png

A basic flowchart of what the device does and the logic behind coding it

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 33.64 kB - 04/22/2017 at 18:49

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image56.jpeg

A rough drawing of what my glasses would look like with the sensors on it

JPEG Image - 106.79 kB - 04/22/2017 at 18:47

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  • 2 × Arduino Uno
  • 2 × SparkFun MP3 shield Can be found on ebay or on the SparkFun website
  • 2 × HC-SR04 Utrasonic Sensor Can be found on ebay
  • 1 × Sunglasses In order to rig the sensors to the lens
  • 2 × AUX chords + circuit wires

View all 10 components

  • Adding Bluetooth Audio Functionality + Custom CAD Glasses

    Pawit Kochakarn06/27/2017 at 16:47 0 comments

    I have now thought of using a reverse AUX cable Y splitter plus an AUX-to-Bluetooth transmitter module in order to get the blind user to hear the sounds through Bluetooth instead of the inconvenient AUX chords. The user will wear wireless Aftershockz bone conduction headphones to hear the beeps now. This will hopefully make this device less fussy to put on especially if it is a viable product for the market.

    Furthermore, a friend of mine has helped me to create these custom CAD glasses out of PVC material embedded with the HC-SR04 sensors. Ultimately, the user will wear these glasses and the bone conduction headphones. The circuit board will be in a case in the user's backpack for portability. The bone conduction will turn on automatically with the press of a button on the Bluetooth module.

    Here are more pictures of beta users trying on my whole device so far:

  • Using Adafruit PowerBoost 500 as rechargeable power source

    Pawit Kochakarn06/27/2017 at 16:26 0 comments

    I have decided to get rid of the normal battery packs and use the Adafruit PowerBoost 500 rechargeable shields instead to power my two Arduino boards for my project. This is great since it means that my device becomes more compact and portable. Furthermore, it can be recharged using a microUSB cable and switched on and off which makes it really good for the users.

    This is what the overall device looks like with the whole thing stacked and switched on.

  • Testing prototype on a beta user

    Pawit Kochakarn05/09/2017 at 19:22 0 comments

    I have used the two Arduino Uno boards fitted with the Mp3 shields and HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensors to make a basic prototype for this stage of my project. I have loaded up some basic sound samples to the board to be triggered when the user is in close proximity to any objects detected by the left/right sensors fitted on a pair of glasses. The code I used was only around 100 lines which is not that much.

    I have filmed a beta user wearing this in order to see the effectiveness of this prototype. He just wore the goggles and walked around the room, trying to navigate himself out of harm's way. It went out Ok but still wasn't 100% reliable.

    The next stage would be to try this device out with a Raspberry Pi and try to make the sensors communicate with the board through bluetooth and also to some wireless headphones via bluetooth also.

  • Using two sensors for left & right sensing

    Pawit Kochakarn04/28/2017 at 19:35 0 comments

    I have now duplicated my code that I have done for one HC-SR04 set-up in order to now have two ultrasonic sensors acting as left/right eyes for the blind user. I will later work on how to combine reading the two sensors on one micro-controller board (probably a raspberry pi) in order to save space on the device. I will then work on using 4 sensors for front/right/left/back of the user in order to try to achieve a full 360 sensor set up.

  • Experimenting with the HC-SR04

    Pawit Kochakarn04/25/2017 at 19:20 0 comments

    In order to get a pair of 'eyes' for my device, I would need to look into using some sort of range-finding sensors for calculating distance. I have looked into first experimenting with a cheap option, which is the HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor which can be bought off sparkfun, ebay etc.

    I have hooked that up with my Arduino Uno plus MP3 shield which I already have loaded up with some sound samples I want to trigger in order to simulate a parking sensor in a car. I have successfully done that for one which looks something like this:

    I have hooked the Arduino to a speaker but in actual use, the user would be wearing some sort of wireless earbuds or headphones.

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twall wrote 04/25/2017 at 19:48 point

I made one of these in my first year of university!  Except without the Arduino; we used a Basic Stamp II.  

Either way, I hope you don't mind some unsolicited advice, which was something I found when I was designing my own pair.  Blind people rely on their ears more than we sighted people do, so using an MP3 shield may interfere with their ability to understand the environment that the sonar cannot.  Instead, we placed small vibration motors at the end of the arms of the glasses, behind the ear, which would pulse with a higher frequency as the user approached an obstacle.

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Pawit Kochakarn wrote 04/26/2017 at 19:15 point

Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate your advice, especially coming from someone who has embarked on this project before. I will surely take your advice into consideration and use some sort of bone conduction device instead of normal earphones.

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twall wrote 04/26/2017 at 19:18 point

I would avoid anything that makes sound at all, to be honest. Another hurdle, but you'll find this out anyway, but watch out for overlapping signal areas with the ultrasonic transmitters, having overlapping soundwaves will muck with your receivers if they're at the same frequency 

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