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Sonar Gauntlets Ping a Way for the Blind

Steven Hoefer develops a wrist-worn device that sends out sonar pings to help the vision-impaired and blind navigate

GPS and Google Maps have been a big help for those of us without a sense of direction, but what if you couldn’t see anything at all? That’s where devices like the Tacit, a wrist-mounted sonar device, come into play.

The sonar gauntlet, designed and built by Steven Hoefer, uses two sonar ping sensors to measure distances around you, and help you navigate. The relative distance between you and nearby objects and obstacles is calculated by the amount of time it takes for the signal to bounce back to the device, just like echolocation used by bats. The glove is also equipped with two servos that apply pressure to your hand based on how close an object is.

The wrist-mounted device can sense objects from anywhere between about 1 inch (2 cm) to 10 feet (3.5m) away. It's also pretty quick, with a general response time of mere fractions of a second. The whole device is self-contained: It's controlled by a Arduino pro mini microcontroller and powered by 9-volt battery.

Hoefer says this is just the first prototype and it can be improved upon: The device could easily be made about half its current size, the servos can be replaced with audio cues to avoid nerve damage from constant pressure, and the batteries should be rechargeable “with a blind-friendly charging method, either wireless[ly] or magnetically-aligning power plug.”

If you have your own ideas on how to improve it or want to build one for yourself, you can. The circuit design and software are released under a general “don’t be a jerk” Creative Commons model that let's you “make it, learn from it, teach it, improve it, modify it. Just share what you do, give credit, and don't sell any without contacting [Hoefer] first.

[Grathio via Technabob and Engadget]

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