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Adding an “extra sense” with rangefinders

Arduino TeamDecember 1st, 2016

Using ultrasonic sensors attached to a person’s arm, researchers have found a way to let you “feel” distant objects.

The concept of this project is surprisingly simple, but as shown in the test video below, seems to work quite well. Using an Arduino Uno to coordinate everything, when rangefinders see a nearby object, like a wall, the system triggers the corresponding vibrators. This allows someone to sense what is nearby without seeing or touching it.

An obvious use case for something like this would be to help visually-impaired people navigate. Perhaps it could also serve in an application where you need to pay attention to something you can’t quite see, sort of like how an animal’s whiskers warn them of danger before contact is made.

The idea is to have a set of rangefinders in armbands that point outwards around your body. Each armband also has vibrators in that vibrate against your skin at an increasing frequency as the range from each sensor gets smaller. The left armband covers your left-side surroundings, and the right your right-side.

You can see more details on this sensor assembly on RepRap Ltd’s page, including how its case was printed directly on fabric!