Tap your wrist for fabric navigation

Scientists at Rice University in Texas have developed a fabric-based wearable device that can silently help users navigate to their destination by “tapping” their wrist with pressurized air. Related research was recently published in the material science journal Device.

Studies have shown that on average, users correctly understand where the device is telling them to go. Because the device embeds much of the control system inside the fabric, working with air rather than electronics, it can be lighter and smaller than existing designs.

“We envision that this device will be favored by those who want information to be transmitted privately to themselves, and that the device can be seamlessly integrated into clothing or other wearable devices.” Marcia O’Malley, one of the paper’s authors and chair of Rice University’s mechanical engineering department, said.

Such wearables may benefit populations such as prosthetic wearers, hearing-impaired people, surgeons, pilots and soldiers, who need a lot of visual and auditory information.

Both visual and auditory cues, such as flashing dashboards or new SMS “dings”, can effectively convey information. However, many people are inundated with these prompts in their daily lives – and if too many notifications are conveyed in the same way, the information can be lost in the chaos. Tactile or touch-based stimuli, including cues such as pressure and temperature applied to the skin, can provide another option. But devices that use haptic signals are currently uncommon, as they often require bulky hardware that places a heavy burden on the wearer.

To overcome this obstacle, the researchers developed a lightweight, comfortable wearable device using textile materials that can be worn on the user’s arm. Barclay Jumet, first author of the paper and a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, said the team tested the device by measuring the pressure applied to the user and the shape of the wearable device. This is somewhat challenging because different users have different experiences with prompts for the same device.

“Everyone’s arm is shaped differently, feels different about the force applied and the time it is applied, and responds differently to the tactile cues we provide.” “Fortunately, textile-based devices are easy to customize and adapt to a variety of body types and sizes,” Jumet said. ”

After testing the device’s performance, the researchers set out to study how the devices could help users navigate in the real world. They put two integrated sleeves into a shirt and attached auxiliary parts to a textile belt to make the device portable. Next, an experimenter sends prompts to users wearing the device to guide them on where to walk within a kilometer.

“We were impressed by the ability of users to be navigated through the streets of Houston and subsequently move along the 50-meter-long Tetris shape on an open field, and to receive and understand navigational tactile cues with 100% accuracy.” Daniel Preston, the paper’s corresponding author and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the university, said.

In another navigation test, participants again interpreted clues in a completely accurate way. This time they rode electric scooters on brick roads, concrete sidewalks and gravel paths.

“As a next step, we will further improve the device’s ability to deliver more complex cues, allowing users to easily and naturally identify these cues.” Preston said. (Source: China Science News, Jinnan)

Image from the author of the paper

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