FeelSpace's Vibro Belt is a wearable that can help the blind to navigate outdoor spaces using a language of vibrations.
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In the past, humans have tended to create sensory substitution systems — such as braille and sign language — to enable those who are blind or deaf to communicate via one of the senses they do possess. But we recently saw a project called the VEST — or Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer — that aimed to create a whole new sense using wearable tech. Now, a research project from the Institute of Cognitive Science in Germany has expanded upon those ideas. The researchers founded startup FeelSpace and developed the Vibro Belt — a wearable that can help the blind navigate outdoor spaces using a language of vibrations.
Vibro Belt works by translating language into tactile signals — specifically in regards to directions. The device consists of 32 vibro motors positioned evenly around the waist, which tell the wearer when and in which direction to turn. The belt works in conjunction with a navigation app, and will continually adjust according to the movements of the wearer. The relevant motors will vibrate until the wearer is positioned correctly, and then stop to prompt them too walk straight until the next turn.
A final prototype is expected to be completed by spring, and FeelSpace hope to pair it with existing smartphone navigation apps such as Google Maps. It is expected to retail for EUR 800, but will likely be available through health insurance. Could the belt be used by other urban explorers such as cyclists, to provide hands-free and hearing-free directions?