Haptic Belt Is Soldiers Eyes In the Dark
A new Haptic belt allows soldiers to navigate in the dark without night-vision or handheld GPS devices...
Despite the array of night time technology soldiers employ to navigate through the dark, there’s still plenty of room for improvement; night vision is bulky and restrictive, and satellite navigation or other GPS systems feature backlit displays that can easily reveal a troop’s position.
That’s why the Army Research Office have developed a vibrating belt with 8 small actuators, or tactors, that buzz to signal which direction the soldier should move in. This hand’s free and display-less approach offers soldiers a covert way of navigating through the dark.
The haptic belt is linked to a GPS navigation system and features a digital compass and accelerometer so the soldier, and command, know which way he’s headed even if he’s walking backwards, lying on his back or side, or crawling through the dirt on his stomach.
Image Credit: U.S. Army, 2009.
Haptic Belt To Guide U.S. Troops In The Dark
The belt uses a type of Morse code to signal which direction the solider should go. The tactors vibrate at 250 hertz, which feels like a gentle nudge on the side, to translate the directions into tactile feedback.
While learning a new language in order to follow commands might sound complicated but as New Scientist points out, it’s actually quite simple and intuitive – a soldier moving in the right direction would feel a constant pattern across the front; solider told to halt would feel a buzz from the front, back and sides; and a solider told to move out would feel a pulsating buzz from front to back.
The project, which is led by Elmar Schmeisser and Linda Elliott at the Army Research Office, has already fielded belts for testing during training exercises both at night and day. And the feedback from the troops is good; they like it because they didn’t have to take their eyes off the surroundings or put down their weapons to use a GPS system.
Current commands come directly from base, but the team is now working with a company called, AnthroTronix, to develop a tactile glove that would allow platoon leaders to direct their troops with hand gestures.
Elliott presented his research on the at a Human-Computer Interaction conference in Orlando in July.
- Rebecca Boyle: Haptic Vibrating Belts Guide U.S. Soldiers Through the Darkness. Popular Science, 06/28/2011.
- Duncan Graham-Rowe: Haptic soldiers guided by buzzing belt. New Scientist, 06/27/2011.