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Think of it as satnav for your waist. The “vibrobelt”, a vibrating belt to help guide cyclists, has proven successful in early tests. It uses vibrating actuators that indicate left, right, backward and forward turn directions, and even tickles the user with coded buzzes that tell them how far they have to go to their destination.
Developed in a masters project by Haska Steltenpohl of the Intelligent Systems Lab at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, alongside supervisor Anders Bouwer, the system aims to give cyclists a “heads-up” navigator, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road after they have chosen their destination on a GPS smartphone. They simply set off and get directional nudges from the vibrators just before each turn.
To see if the vibrotactile navigation compared well with using a standard GPS map on a handlebar-mounted smartphone, 20 volunteers tried both methods on a variety of unfamiliar routes. While all the cyclists reached their destinations successfully, the researchers noted an important difference: when questioned about landmarks they had passed, the vibrobelt users proved much more aware of their surroundings en route than those who were constantly glancing at a GPS screen….
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