Project Tacit

Sonar for the blind.

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In the past, we have blogged about a few projects that we felt were not only incredibly clever and well-designed, but were also genuinely useful. This is one of those projects. Check it out - Project Tacit: Sonar for the Blind.

This project, by Steve Hoefer of Grathio Labs, is built around three basic parts - some ultrasonic sensors, an Arduino Pro Mini, and a few servo motors. The ultrasonic sensors read the distance (from 1 inch to 10 feet) between them and an object and the microcontroller interprets the data. It then sends signals to the servo motors, which apply pressure to the user's wrist to let them know how far (or close) they are away from an object. It's designed to let the user navigate complex environments. Watch the video below for more:

This is a truly amazing project that has the potential to be incredible useful for visually impaired individuals. Check out the project page on Grathio Labs website. Amazing work Steve, and great project!

Comments 23 comments

  • SomeGuy123 / about 11 years ago * / 3

    This project needs a kickstarter page. I'm sure many people would be willing to fund development for this device.

    • sgrace / about 11 years ago / 1

      I agree. Reading his write-up shows that he put effort into his research and development of the project. Plus, he points out where things could be done better.
      Hobbyists, take note!

  • MacHarborGuy / about 11 years ago / 2

    Do not touch the operational end of the device. Do not look directly at the operational end of the device. Do not submerge the device in liquid, even partially. Most importantly, under no circumstances should you—
    The wrist-pocket really needs an Aperture Labs logo on it.

  • roboprime / about 11 years ago / 1

    This is a project that one of my former students created that is quite similar:

  • alvaroSpark / about 11 years ago / 1

    Interesting... I have also used sparkfun extensively to design my "haptic radar" headband:
    as well as the "haptikar":
    and haptic "mask" (haptikat):

  • ju1ce / about 11 years ago / 1

    How is this better than a white cane?

  • longwire / about 11 years ago / 1

    Brilliant project.
    It might be relevant that stereo microphone technique would employ the sensors in a 'cross-eyed' arrangement (look at the microphones on a lot of the new micro-recorders for examples). This is believed to reduce the 'hole in the middle' effect where, because of the angled layout, each sensor will be more sensitive to an object on its own side than to an object the same distance away but on the 'straight ahead' axis between the two sensors.
    Worth a quick try maybe.

  • lawrah / about 11 years ago / 1

    ...I thought of this idea 2 years ago and had been planning on building one like this since. :/ Good job though I guess.

  • CF / about 11 years ago / 1

    This is such a simple, but powerful idea! I'm having one of those "Why didn't I think of that" moments.

  • ITikhonov / about 11 years ago / 1

    I always wondered what if attach b&w camera to braille display with enough resolution (say 320x200) constantly pressed against skin. Will mind be able to multiplex signal from skin nerves into image?

    • There's a device similar to what you're describing only it uses small electrical impulses delivered to the tongue. Apparently a person can learn to "see," in a sense, by feeling the camera images being projected onto the nerves in his/her tongue.

    • CF / about 11 years ago * / 1

      I've seen something similar to what you are describing. It consists of a grid of electrodes implanted in the brain where the visual cortex is located rather than using touch. After a lot of processing and calibration, the user sees a low resolution grey and white grid as if they were seeing it through their eyes. Fascinating stuff!
      Similar project:

  • ChristopherErickson / about 11 years ago / 1

    Freaking awesome!
    Why didn't I think of this???

  • bdwyer / about 11 years ago / 1

    Central Michigan University Project (Very Similar).
    That's where I graduated ;0)

    • Dan90212 / about 11 years ago / 1

      First i would Like to say that the Featured Project is a great idea and that more research needs to be done in this field. The "smart Cane" project posted by #bdwyer is near identical in functionality to the featured project with exception to RFID and user outputs. Both are great attempts at increasing the mobility of visually impaired people. I also like the "D.O.G." system linked below. Here is my teams revision of the 2009 "Smart Cane" called the "Smart Robot"
      PDF Warning
      Our systems primary focus is on navigating a user to and from dorms on campus to classes and the library. We found during our research that too much sensor error occurred while walking with with sensors mounted to the user. That is why we developed a robotic platform for our device. anyways...glad to see continued research and development in this field. keep up the good work!!

  • jaywgraves / about 11 years ago / 1

    Typo in the URL.
    Grafio -> Grathio

  • Dim_ON / about 11 years ago / 1

    Simple, inexpensive, mass-produceable, useful, innovative and effective.
    The best!

  • CG915 / about 11 years ago / 1

    My senior project group did something along these lines.
    We also used infared sensors and vibrating motors to do a similar task, but we also added a compass and gps unit in order to give the user some audible guidance using the speakjet.
    our reports here under Distance and Obstruction Guidance System
    D.O.G. system
    If i can find the time i will try to make a video showing it working.

  • TimZaman / about 11 years ago / 1

    Pretty cool indeed :). But not everything needs a kickstarter page. I give him 100 times the credit for not having one :)

  • GreenLite / about 11 years ago / 1

    I was thinking about making something similar a few months ago.. i was thinking a belt buckle with a couple pings on it.

  • kurt_ek / about 11 years ago / 1

    this is one very amazing project!!!

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