Researchers at NUI Galway’s Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab have incorporated a sophisticated sonar system into gloves to create the JediGlove, a wearable that assists the visually impaired.
What was the inspiration for the JediGlove?
The gloves are inspired by Star Wars’ fictional use of ‘the force’ and bats’ echolocation abilities.
“We have nicknamed the device the JediGlove because it lets someone who is visually impaired ‘feel the force’ of objects in their environment,” explained Derek O’Keeffe, Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway, who worked on the project.
How does the JediGlove work?
Using echolocation, the prototype JediGlove sends sequential micro-vibrations out of sensors on the tips of the user’s fingers and thumb. These are able to measure the distance to an object’s distance, helping the gloves sense obstacle’s in the wearer’s path.
The smart gloves train a bespoke algorithm on the data picked up from its bat-like ultrasound echolocation sensors. The technology activates micro-vibration feedback motors in each finger of the glove to give the wearer immediate haptic feedback on an approaching object or obstruction.
Are there any other applications for the JediGlove?
“Not only can [the JediGlove help people with visual impairment but it could also have applications for first responders in emergency situations, like firemen and rescue teams entering buildings and environments that may have low visibility,” O’Keefe, who is also Consultant Physician at University Hospital Galway, explained in the press release.
“During a clinic visit, one of my patients who has visual impairment mentioned that one of the most common navigation aids, a white cane, hadn’t changed much for over 100 years. It can also be both physically and socially burdensome to use,” O’Keefe explained.
Professor O’Keefe says that after taking into account his patient’s words, the prototype was designed with potential technological solutions that are more ergonomic than the white cane for people with visual impairment.
The JediGlove prototype was developed with the help of Mouzzam Hussain, who is studying a Masters in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway. “The JediGlove has been an exciting project to be involved with putting patients’ needs first in a way that allows me to use my hardware and software skills to help them in their daily routines,” Hussain said.
The first patient with visual impairment to try the JediGlove was Sinead Hanrahan.
“Technology like this is a game-changer,” Hanrahan explained. “It would reduce the need for me to rely on other people. Down the line, when it is more refined, I think it will make a huge difference for people with visual impairment.”
Are there any plans to release this glove?
The researchers say their JediGlove technology was “developed in the spirit of Open Source Innovation” and have shared all files and documentation of their work here via Github.
Source: NUI Galway