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New project: 3DNav, a navigation wearable for the visually impaired

By March 31, 2021 No Comments
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Elitac Wearables is happy to announce a new development project in partnership with software experts Brthrs Agency: A haptic feedback wearable and application to help visually impaired people move around safely.

A visualisation of a visually impaired user wearing a haptic feedback wearable. In it, he receives a notification through vibrations in his belt about an obstacle blocking his way.

Combining software and haptic wearables expertise

Merijn Klarenbeek, CEO of Elitac Wearables, and Robert Keus, Managing Partner of Brthrs Agency, remark “This partnership joins together 2 diverse areas of expertise: Brthrs Agency brings the required software development knowledge. We will develop an app that interprets and communicates navigation instructions, for example from GPS data or obstacle detection sensors, to the wearable.

“The wearable, probably in the form of a belt or a vest, will then relay this information to the wearer through vibrations. Elitac Wearables will use their expertise in developing haptic wearables to ensure the wearable is comfortable and lightweight, and the vibrational instructions are intuitive and efficient.“

The benefits of haptic feedback in a navigation wearable for the visually impaired

“A number of navigation aids for visually impaired people already exist”, notes Robert Keus, “but they rely on auditory notifications to alert the user.

“There is a high risk of sensory overload in this case. Visually impaired people in particular must already process a multitude of sounds to make sense of their environments. A haptic navigation wearable prevents sensory overload by targeting the underutilised sense of touch.

“Furthermore, whereas auditory alerts may get drowned out by ambient noises, this is much less likely when the alerts are communicated through vibrations”.

Robert Keus, Managing Partner of Brthrs Agency, standing below a sign depicting a logo of his company.

Realising the potential of wearables

Merijn Klarenbeek and Robert Keus explain why this is a project they are really excited about, “We are firm believers in the potential of wearables to improve people’s lives and this is a great example of that potential being realised.

“We get to use our combined experience in wearables and software to help visually impaired people move around more safely. It doesn’t get much more rewarding than that!”.

Merijn Klarenbeek, CEO of Elitac Wearables, holding the BalanceBelt. This is a haptic feedback belt for people with balance disorders.

First steps in developing the wearable

The first step is interviewing potential end users to get a clear insight into users’ requirements. Next, we can start building the prototype and test the navigation wearable in real life with visually impaired users.

Looking ahead, Merijn Klarenbeek said, “It helps that we have a range of ready-to-use building blocks, such as the ScienceSuit and various haptic feedback components. Together with Brthrs’ software development expertise, this will allow us to build a working prototype more quickly and start user testing much sooner.”

The project will run until June 2022 and is financially supported by the Province of Utrecht.

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