Yale University

A new haptic wayfinding gadget changes configuration to indicate direction and distance.

Animotus is a palm-sized gadget that hopes to help you get around.

Developed by Adam Spiers, a postdoctoral associate in robotics at Yale, is a touch-based system. Instead of relying on, say, spoken GPS instructions or squinting at a map that charts your path through space, the haptic device changes shape to point you on your way. One portion of the cube twists left or right, indicating directions; the other part slides forwards or backwards, denoting distance.

Yale University

The device receives wireless feedback to help users navigate towards pre-set destinations. It’s accurate within about 30 centimeters, Spiers says, but isn’t calibrated so precisely as to help you avoid obstacles such as a coffee table or rogue shoe splayed out on the floor. (Although, he adds, localization can be further improved.) In general, it selects the most direct route from point A to point B, “but it wouldn’t try to send you through a wall to get there,” Spiers says.

Spiers initially developed the prototype for use in an immersive theater installation, where audience members made their way through complete darkness by using the device.

“You hear about people walking into fountains or crashing into lampposts because they’re staring at their phones,” Spiers notes. The device could eliminate the necessity of hunching over your phone’s map. And he also hopes that it could be a useful tool for visually impaired pedestrians who are used to tuning into aural instructions. “It would just work in the background the whole time,” he says. “It wouldn’t obscure the sounds of the city, which is one way that a visually impaired person appreciates the world.”

So far, testing has occurred only during the art performance and in the controlled atmosphere of the lab. Spiers hopes to try the device in urban environments in the near future.

The gadget is constantly being refined, a painstaking process dramatically simplified by 3-D printing. For the performance, Spiers emailed the hardware to the artistic staff, who could print and assemble extra devices as needed.

He designed the device to be intuitive. “We don’t want people to spend days or weeks learning how to use it,” he says. “You should just be able to pick it up and go.”

H/T: Gizmag

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The Future of the City Is Childless

    America’s urban rebirth is missing something key—actual births.

  2. A photo of anti-gentrification graffiti in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    The Hidden Winners in Neighborhood Gentrification

    A new study claims the effects of neighborhood change on original lower-income residents are largely positive, despite fears of spiking rents and displacement.

  3. a photo of the First Pasadena State Bank building, designed by Texas modernist architects MacKie and Kamrath. It will be demolished on July 21.
    Design

    The Lonely Death of a South Texas Skyscraper

    The First Pasadena State Bank, a 12-story modernist tower inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, has dominated this small town near Houston since 1962.

  4. A NASA rendering of a moon base with lunar rover from 1986.
    Life

    We Were Promised Moon Cities

    It’s been 50 years since Apollo 11 put humans on the surface of the moon. Why didn’t we stay and build a more permanent lunar base? Lots of reasons.

  5. A crowded street outside in Boston
    Life

    Surveillance Cameras Debunk the Bystander Effect

    A new study uses camera footage to track the frequency of bystander intervention in heated incidents in Amsterdam; Cape Town; and Lancaster, England.                            

×