During a recent Yale theatre performance, audience members were asked to help uncover the plot by navigating the set. A simple enough premise, except for the fact that the participants were completely immersed in darkness.
Navigating a space without the ability of sight is a challenge the visually impaired must face everyday, which is why the performance served as a creative way to test the Haptic Sandwich — a new device intended to help the blind navigate — created by Adam Spiers, a post-doc associate at Yale University’s robotics lab.
Users can set their destination in advance on a laptop and the Haptic Sandwich, which is a cube that fits in the palm of your hand, communicates with the computer wirelessly to guide the person to their destination.
The top of the cube pushes forward or backwards to the indicate distance that must be travelled, and then rotates right or left to denote direction. When the user has reached their destination, the device will return to its normal cube shape.
During the theatre production, Spiers created an indoor positioning system that functioned like a GPS to track people’s movements, Engineering.com reported.
Spiers said the system could be useful in the home of a recently visually impaired individual and that it achieves similar accuracy to a satellite GPS. It also could be beneficial to visually impaired pedestrians, Spiers told City Lab, in that the device lets people navigate and hear the sounds of the city unlike aural directions.
Spiers used a 3D printer that is capable of printing dissolvable support material in order to include intricate details in the device’s internal mechanisms. Using a 3D printer helps simplify the constant refinement of the Haptic Sandwich.
The Haptic Sandwich has only be tested in Spier’s lab and during the theatre performance so far, but he said he hopes to test it in urban environments in the near future.
Check out a video of the device in use below.
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