Clever Gadget Offers Sonar For The Blind

| 22 Aug 2011 21:10

Grathio Labs wants to help the blind, and its best idea so far sounds like something straight out of a Marvel comic book.

Dubbed "Hand-Mounted Haptic Feedback Sonar Obstacle Avoidance Assistance Device" (but shorted to "Tacit" for easier consumption), the device attaches to a blind person's wrist and essentially gives them tactile feedback on their surroundings. explains:

The user slides it on to the back of their wrist where it sends out ultrasonic pulses which can detect objects between 2cm and 3.5m away. The pulses are sent out and the time it takes for them to return is measured by the on-board micro-controller. A shorter time period means an object is closer.

Using two server motors pressure can be applied on both sides of the wrist. More pressure means a closer object, and the user can also tell which direction the object is in because the pressure is applied independently on the right and left of the wrist.

Sound familiar? That's more or less the same system bats use to navigate dark caves. Certainly, the bats have this ability innately, but the Tacit seems a pretty solid analogue.

One question remains, however: Given that "sonar" is not exactly an inherent feature of the human animal, exactly how much training/experience would a blind person need before the use of this device is second nature?

Or, to more readily address the question I'm sure is floating inside the heads of our geeky audience, how much experience would a blind person need with this thing before they could dress in a red unitard and take down Wilson Fisk?

Good news for those of you wondering when exactly you'll be able to do the Matt Murdock thing: As points out, the Tacit's "build notes, schematics, and code required have all been released under the Creative Commoncs BY-NC-SA license meaning you can build one right now for around $65." Full details can be found at the Grathio Labs website.


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