2004 Conference Proceedings

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CyARM: Environment Sensing Device using Non-visual Modality

Presenters
Junichi Akita,
Tomohito Takagi,
Makoto Okamoto,
Future University-Hakodate, Japan
Email: akita@fun.ac.jp

Introduction

A lot of works on environment sensing devices for blind people to assist to walk are reported, and most of them employ ultrasonic for sensing. The output method for user is one of the most important and difficult problems. One solution is to emit different audible sound according to the distance to obstacles, but it is hard to use this device in the practical environment since user can't hear external sound. Another solution is to use sense of touch to present the existence of obstacles, but user has to feel the output of the device, and then to understand what exists around him/her. This pair of two steps of understanding is a burden for user.

Concept

We propose a novel intuitive interface in the output of sensing device for blind people to assist to walk, and its implementation named as CyARM.

concept

The user holds CyARM in the hand, and searches the environment like group for the around. CyARM transmits ultrasonic to measure the distance to the obstacle, and is tied to the user's body by a wire. The tension of the wire is controlled according to the measured distance to the obstacle. If the obstacle exists at a short distance, CyARM pulls a wire tightly so that the user feels as if touching the obstacle by bending the arm. If the obstacle exists at a long distance, CyARM pulls a wire loosely so that the user feels as if not touching the obstacle by extending the arm. The user can search the obstacle in any direction by pointing at any direction, and this will give the user a illusion as if the user's hand is extended to the far obstacles. This output method gives an intuitive interface for user, and user can recognize the environment as if walking with groping around; this may be a natural interface for user.

Developed Device

Device architecture
We designed the architecture of the proposed sensing device, CyARM.

architecture

Ultrasonic sensor measures the distance to the obstacle, and the motor is controlled according to the measured distance. The wire is controlled in position control by PID control. The wire is rewinded to the initial position at default, and the tension of rewinding the wire is controlled by the measured distance; high tension for short distance, and low tension for long distance. The tension of rewinding the wire is represented by the P gain in motor control; high motor current for high tension. Here is the characteristics of prototype CyARM.

The detailed implementation of control firmware and its evaluation will be reported in our future work.

Package design

package-sketch
package-photo

We also designed the package for CyARM.
Figures show the concept sketch of package design and built prototype package. The ultrasonic sensor is located in front of CyARM in parallel to user's finger so that user can easily aim at target direction. We are trying to develop smaller, easier to hold package for CyARM.

Conclusion and Future Work

We proposed a novel sensing device, CyARM with intuitive interface in the output for blind people to assist to walk. A wire is tied to the user's body, and it is controlled by CyARM according to the measured distance to the obstacle. This interface gives an intuitive interface for user as if the hand is extended to the obstacle exists.

We also discussed the implementation and the package design of CyARM for building the prototype.

Any other information on the sensed obstacles, such as texture (soft or hard, cold or hot), living nature or artificial object, and so on, can be presented by the future CyARM with the other ways, such as vibration, feeling on the finger, and so on. These extensions will be discussed in our future works.

The device we proposed, CyARM gives a new means to sense the environment for users, and we are also planning to extend our interest for joint attention or joint sense of touch feeling for more than two people to watch or feel one same object.


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