Top Hat Provides Sound Navigation #WearableWednesday


Usually people like top hats to hide their hardware, but a group of students at Cornell University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering decided to give their hardware some support with this project found on Hackaday. Called the Sound Navigation Hat, it uses sound localization with GPS and head orientation to guide the wearer to the chosen destination. So, imagine you are trying to get to a surprise restaurant. If the location were pre-programmed into the hat, you would merely listen to audio tones which would sound as if they were coming from the direction of the restaurant to guide you there. It sounds simple, but there’s definitely a bunch of wires on the top of that hat connected to a PIC 32, a compass module, an Adafruit GPS Breakout Board, an Adafruit TFT LCD display, a DAC and a stereo headset. There’s also some fancy trigonometry dealing with Interaural Time Differences (ITD) and Interaural Level Differences (ITD), which allow for the audio sounds to work with the shape of the head and position of the ears. You can get a feel for how this comes together in their video.

Sound based navigation is an interesting choice as it allows the wearer to concentrate on their surroundings. Having participated in a hackathon for accessibility, I can tell you this would be really beneficial for low vision or blind people and it gets bonus points since it doesn’t require translation. For the future, it would be great to see a slimmer version of this project, or one that relies on a phone with a higher end headset. Plus, it would be fun if everything could be voice activated—”Siri, soundmap to Jamba Juice”. Shoutout to students Abdurrahman Husnein, Sophia Yan and Vance Hancock—please continue your work! For the rest of you that are curious about a nav project, you should definitely check out our GPS boards. Better yet, get your pet involved with our GPS Dog Collar project. You can track your dog’s walks and help keep your buddy (and yourself) in shape. Post a photo so we know where you are hiking!

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