I got this sent to me the other day. It’s kind of fascinating, and reminded me of the old Peepo of years gone by. I definitely have questions, but it looks kind of neat. I certainly won’t be able to go to the lab and try it out, but I can at least spread the word.
Project Serenity 2017: Tactile Navigational Belt:
My name is Elaine Harrison and I am the research assistant to a group of investigators working on conducting a study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. This study is interested in evaluating the efficacy of a tactile navigational system as compared to an auditory navigational system. We are also interested in the feedback on the tactile navigational system from our participants, as this is an innovative technology that has had little testing on its intended demographic.
I will briefly describe what the tactile navigational system is, however, there will be an abundance of supplementary material that will give you far more detail on the study we are conducting, as well as the creation of the belt itself.
Basically, the tactile navigational system receives its name because of how it works. The belt’s three actuators are spread across the torso so that one actuator is on the left side, one actuator is in the middle behind the person’s back and the other actuator ends up on the right side.
Using a selected GPS destination, the user will begin moving straight until the belt indicates for him or her to turn left or right.
The turn is indicated with a vibration left or a vibration right instead of a traditional verbal command. The user will be silently moved along his or her intended path until the destination is reached. The idea is that the user’s auditory system, now devoid of having to listen for verbal directional commands, can now focus on their regular external environment.
This is often helpful for those with vision loss, as the ability to listen for hybrid cars, pedestrian traffic and many other daily distractions can be frustrating when one is also trying to maintain route orientation to an unfamiliar destination. The person can now take their navigational information from the belt on his or her torso, making the left and right turns as smoothly as they occur. The belt is not meant to be used alone. The traveler must still use a long cane, dog guide, human guide, etc in combination with the belt to arrive at a destination. The belt only tells the user which way to turn.
We are eager to get feedback on this technology, as we are curious if it is or would be more effective than some of the audio GPS tools that already exist. The study also gives the user the chance to try out the belt to see if it might augment their independent travel experience. Our study has been approved by MREB, the McMaster Research Ethics Board, as well as by CNIB, Canadian National Institute for The Blind. We are in much need of participants and would be grateful if you would not mind browsing over our recruiting page and seeing if you qualify. We do appreciate any help you would be able to give us. We also would be grateful if you pass our information on to anyone who may find it of interest. We are able to compensate some travel expenses up to about $50, and the participant will be compensated $50 for their visit to the lab.
Our study recruiting page can be found at http://psych.mcmaster.ca/goldreich-lab/Navigation_Study.html
Or you can find our CNIB page at
I can be reached directly at harrisoe (at) mcmaster (dot) ca, and you can also reach the lab by phone at 905-525-9140 Ext.20840.
To learn a little more about the tactile belt’s conception and design, the following site is an interview with the lead engineer, Saurabh Shaw:
If you have any other questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to email me. Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully we will see you in the lab!