Training for the highest levels of a sport requires fine-tuning of muscle memory, but this is often a visual game, with athletes watching high-speed video of themselves and their competitors to nail down the right moves. So impaired vision can be a major obstacle.
The same touchy engineers who gave us the first peelable epidermal electronics last year have a new virtual tactile system: Smart fingers, which could someday bring a real sense of touch to telepresence applications.
A new wireless glove that can teach piano lessons could help people with spinal cord injuries regain some motor control, according to researchers at Georgia Tech. The fingerless gloves buzz to indicate which piano keys to play, and people who used it in a study experienced improved sensation in their fingers.
GPS devices are great, but sometimes I want to throw mine out the window. There’s something so obnoxious about the Garmin voice, especially when you disregard its navigation choice and it tells you it’s “reCALCulating” in that disapproving tone. A new haptic steering wheel concept would be so much friendlier! Instead of smarmy commentary, the wheel simply vibrates to tell you which way to turn.
Sometimes, when I'm occupied or just don't feel like answering it, I ignore my phone. Sorry, but I don't always have time for a telemarketer or whatever. Now Nokia wants to make this physically impossible by patenting an electronic tattoo that would vibrate, on your body, whenever someone calls. It would work like a body-based caller ID system, vibrating in a specific pattern according to the caller or the type of message.
Guide dogs are great, but vision-impaired people sometimes need to find their own way through complex environments. Instead of checking for obstacles with a trademark white stick, inventor Steve Hoefer has another idea: Use wrist-mounted sonar.
Tired of seeing 3-D renderings of objects on your screen and being unable to grab and fondle them? Just slip your fingers into the firm grip of Japanese haptics robot HIRO III. Driven by 15 independent motors, its black phalanges provide real-time force feedback to your hand, precisely simulating the weight and contour of virtual 3-D objects -- a pretty wild paradigmatic leap forward in interface technology!
Enough has been written about BMW's iDrive to fill a 1,000-page driver's manual. Then again, iDrive owners need a 1,000-page manual to figure out how to use it. Credit Audi for succeeding where the vaunted Bavarian firm failed. After a week driving Audi's new 2004 A8, we can report that the carmaker has created an electronic driver-car interface that is genuinely intuitive. The iDrive was just too clever. The menus within menus, the complex haptic-feedback mouse/knob device, and the labyrinth of subsystems all made easy tasks like changing a radio setting far too complex.