Cycle related gadgets are always of interest to Gadget Master, so I was interested to see an article on New Scientist about a “vibrobelt”, described as “sat nav for your waist”.
Basically, it’s a belt to help guide cyclists, with actuators indicating the relative direction to take – left, right, and forwards. Apparently it can use coded vibrations to indicate distance to desired destination, too.
It has proven successful in early tests, reports, Paul Marks.
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.
That’s a key observation as concerns mount over the appalling death toll among cyclists. The researchers plan to reveal their system and research results at the annual Intelligent User Interfaces conference in Santa Monica, California, in March.
It’s not the first time “vibro” navigation has been tried, however. The US military is trialling a system that guides ground troops to targets in a similar fashion.